The GOP and the John Galt Factor

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Opinion, Politics

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Published on August 19, 2012 with 4 Comments

With the addition of Paul Ryan, the GOP presidential candidates and the Tea Party celebrate the virtue of selfish capitalism as portrayed by author Ayn Rand in her novel, “Atlas Shurgged.”

By Ralph E. Stone

August 19, 2012

Vice President candidate Paul Ryan once remarked, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. And at the Rand celebration he spoke at in 2005, Ryan invoked the central theme of Rand’s writings when he told his audience, “Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill… is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict – individualism versus collectivism.”

Ryan has handed out copies of Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents. Later he seemingly rejected Rand’s philosophy.

According to Rand, “Totalitarianism is collectivism. Collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group—whether to a race, class or state does not matter. Collectivism holds that man must be chained to collective action and collective thought for the sake of what is called “the common good.” According to Ryan, social security, for example, is a collectivist system.

Rand has other admirers on the economic and religious right. “Who is John Galt?” signs are seen at Tea Party protests. John Galt, by the way, is a fictional character in Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged. The Tea Party loves Ryan. Conservative commentators Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh have praised the book. And Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas cited Atlas Shrugged as among his favorite novels.

Who is Ayn Rand and what is it about Atlas Shrugged that appeals to Ryan and the Tea Party? As the Atlas Shrugged plot unfolds, Galt is acknowledged to be a creator, philosopher, and inventor who symbolizes the power and glory of the human mind. He serves as a principled counterpoint to the collectivist social and economic structure depicted in the novel. This depiction portrays a society based on oppressive bureaucratic functionaries and a culture that embraces stifling mediocrity and egalitarianism, which the novel associates with socialistic idealism.

As outlined in Atlas Shrugged, the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness or rational self-interest and that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism. “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

Paraphrasing the late Gore Vidal on Ayn Rand: Rand gives moral sanction to greed and self interest. She has a great attraction for simple people who are puzzled by organized society, who object to paying taxes, who dislike the “welfare” state, who feel guilt at the thought of the suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts. For them, she has an enticing prescription: altruism is the root of all evil, self-interest is the only good, and if you’re dumb or incompetent that’s your tough luck. In sum, Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality

The phrase “going John Galt” or simply “going Galt” has been used to describe productive members of society cutting back on work in response to the projected increase in U.S. marginal tax rates, increased limits on tax deductions, and the use of tax revenues for causes they regard as immoral. That’s why we see Galt signs at Tea Party rallies and protests.

With the addition of Ryan, the GOP presidential candidates now celebrate the virtue of selfish capitalism. Remember, Romney devoted his career to vulture capitalism; he would buy up companies, extract the most profits for Bain Capital and its investors, often firing workers, outsourcing jobs, and loading up companies with so much debt that they were forced to declare bankruptcy. Bain and Romney left with massive profits.

If she were alive today, Ayn Rand would probably vote for Romney/Ryan in the November election, favor a free market economy devoid of regulation, and, of course, oppose taxes on the rich.

In sum, Rand in her writings had the particular genius of recasting the wealthy, the talented, and the powerful as oppressed.

The GOP and Ayn Rand are a match made in Heaven. Well maybe not in Heaven.

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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  1. Rand wove a very tight story in Atlas Shrugged (yes, I read it four times), but it’s plot is no more plausible than the Harry Potter books or The Princess Bride maybe. John Galt, a self-involved, troubled loner, could not invent a new metal today without substantial government-sponsored metallurgical research. The Rand philosophy is, boiled down to its essence,”it’s all about me.” She coddles arrogance and tells you it is OK to step on your neighbor. Let’s talk tax policy, including the socialization of investment losses and oil and drug company “profits.” But Rand is not worth our time.

  2. Part 1 of the “Atlas Shrugged” film received overwhelmingly negative reviews; Rotten Tomatoes reports that 5 of 45 written reviews from critics (11%) were positive – with an average score of 3.5 out of 10, including only 1 of 17 Top Critics’ reviews (6%) being positive.  Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film only one star, calling it “the most anticlimactic non-event since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone’s vault.”  Guess we can expect Part 2 to be a similar critical non-event.

  3. Atlas Shrugged Part 2 will be in theaters October 12th, 2012.

  4. From the smallest business, to the largest concern, taxes drain the lifeblood out of the markets. 

    Most people, even those if the Tea Party, understand taxes.  We need taxes and agree to that.  Taxes maintain our roads, they also support local governments that provide essential services.  However, no person is served when the taxing stops going to essential services and starts to go toward campaign promises and election spending.

    First, we do not pay 20% income tax.  The employer pays more than 20% of your money before you get it.  So your effective taxation is about 43%.  In other words, you get to keep 57% of the money you actually make.  Most states have a state tax of 6% on everything you buy, so that increases your effective tax rate to 49%  So you get to keep 51% of the money you make.

    Unless you buy gas, then ass in 29c per gallon.  If you buy cigarettes, then add in one dollar per pack.  If you have electricity, add that 2% into the number, and if you own a cell phone, then add in another 1.2%.  If you own a  house, then add in those taxes, and that can bring your effective taxation to about 54% – so of every dollar you make, you get to keep 46 cents of it.

    And what does this money get used for?  Well, look at government programs.  There are huge fees that are levied on businesses, and you pay those taxes within the products you buy.  THose are hidden taxes and can account to as much as 10% of the cost of every product out there.  So if you were to add those into your computation, now you are paying 64%

    Now, the president is considering a huge tax on corporations.  It could add another 10% to their tax burden.  Since a corporation makes money from selling products, they have to make that money back up, so add in another 10% on everything you buy.  HAve you seen the price of beef lately?  That is the “Carbon Tax,”  Yes, you pay it.  Add in another 2%

    That means your tax rate is really closer to 85%.

    The federal government took in 1,335.5 billion dollars last year in taxes.  There are 310 million people in the USA.  That means that you paid about 4,000.00 last year in hidden federal taxes if it were averaged to everyone, and about 3,000 a year in state sales taxes.  7,000 a year for a minimum wage employee.  Do the numbers, it’s SCARY.

    Ayn Rand’s philosophy is simple.  A good days pay for a good days work.  Not, a good days work for about 20% of your good days pay so that the government can loan money to Hamas and pay excessive interest rates to China to support giving hige election year contracts to supportive businesses.