Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On "Going Galt"

From Red Tory, we discover the new rage in the right-o-sphere, especially in the US, is the idea of "Going Galt". Essentially, people on the right, of the so-called "productive class" are being encouraged to emulate John Galt in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and to go on strike, to withdraw their productive genius and capacity in order to "starve the beast." The expectation is that the governemnt and society will collapse and then people will beg them to return.

In principle, I agree with them. I think its perfectly justifiable for anyone to withdraw their consent and support of any government or institution they do not agree with or explicity consent to. It is the basis of direct action. In fact, I have called for it many times in this blog - stop paying taxes, do not obey laws or regulations you do not explicit agree with. I think it is a powerful tool the left whould use more often.

The problem is, and perhaps I'm being terribly cynical, is that I don't think they really believe it. Rather than an act liberation for all people, the right-wingers, with their half-baked understanding of Galt's passage, want to use it to punish their enemies. Curious that, while Bush also called for $750 billion in corporate welfare and bailouts, no one was screaming to "Go Galt" then. But now, with Obama in office, its is suddenly the thing to do. I wonder who they plan to put in charge after their plan suceeds?

Strangely, they really aren't "Going Galt" striclty speaking. In the novel, the "leaders and innovators in industry" remove themselves from society and flee to "Galt's Gulch" to live apart and out of the reach of the society of collectivists and parasites they feel is destroying them. But the proponents of "Going Galt" aren't proposing that. Instead, they are merely asking people to stop making money and bring their income's down to less than $250 000 USD. Or to retire early. Yeah, that'll show 'em.

And I am puzzled by whom they classify as the "productive class" and the "parasites". Seems that Dr. Helen Smith, wife of Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds is recommending that the "rich" (assuming all of the "rich" are the productive class) stop spending, stop tipping wait staff and leave them nasty notes. Because, it seems, wait staff are parasites and there is no better way to bring down the Obama administration than to ostracize most of the American working class.

Or something. I'm still trying to figure out how mouth-pieces like Smith, or Michelle Malkin (who had no problem when Dubya was in office) think they are the "productive class" while wait staff and other low-income service workers, are "parasites."

Really, it merely displays their sense of entitlement and elitism (remember when that was supposed to describe Obama?). They are so sure they are the reason for everyone's sucess, that they feel they need to punish everyone else. They follow a "fuehrer principle" or the idea that there are "great men" who are all productive and the mass of the rest of us who must be lead and ruled. And now, like petulant children, they are going to teach us a lesson by withholding that desparately needed leadership. That is the utter elitist mindset and hubris of the "Go Galt" crowd.

And in perhaps the greatest irony of all, you have conservatives-right wingers calling for a strike, based on a character and philosophy of Ayn Rand. Let that sink in a minute - Randian Collective Action.

Consider that our current finacial crisis was actually brought about by a Randian - Alan Greenspan - who used the centrally controlled and planned Federal Reserve system to increase the money supply and artificially inflate the credit bubble in the first place. Will the "productive class" leaving do anything if the Fed can simply create money out of thin air, rather than rely on tax income? Not likely.

If these guys were serious, they would ACTUALLY "Go Galt" - remove themselves from society to an enclave and refuse to pay taxes or follow regulations or laws. Indeed, they could even indulge in what Agorists call the "counter economy" - buy and sell products and services off the books. Its a way to continue living as you have, but to simply ignore the state.

Apparently though, the "Go Galt" folks merely want people to be poorer. As has been said elsewhere, this looks like a marketing slogan, rather than a grassroots movement. Can you smell the astroturf? Seem that people like Beck (Glenn Beck, not Billy Beck), Rush, Malkin and the rest are merely latching onto this in order to use it for partisan political purposes. The minute they regain power, or find that "going Galt" can also be used against a Republican administration, they'll denounce it as "un-American" and "treason" - remember after 9-11 it was your patriotic duty to keep working and spending, to keep the ecomomy going.

In short, the fascists are trying to use the ideas of liberty to gain power. Its exploitation and manipulation of the highest, most politically cynical order.

I'd also like to share with the right-o-sphere some other little tidbits of Rand they might find interesting:

On Conservatives:

The conservatives want freedom to act in the material realm; they tend to oppose government control of production, of industry, of trade, of business, of physical goods, of material wealth. But they advocate government control of man’s spirit, i.e., man’s consciousness; they advocate the State’s right to impose censorship, to determine moral values, to create and enforce a governmental establishment of morality, to rule the intellect...The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories—with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington.

On Christianity:

What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge -- he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil -- he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor -- he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire -- he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy -- all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man's fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors they they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was -- that robot, in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love -- he was not man...

Still want to "Go Galt"? Be my guest.

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At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It strikes me that the vision of Galt's Gulch is as utopian as anything the left has ever produced. Who will be the cleaners, the mechanics, the waiters in this perfect society?

At 9:04 AM, Blogger Mike said...

I've wondered that myself. I'm curious why these folks seem to be targeting the poor and middle class, rather than the state?

I'm also curious how many of the heads of GM, Citibank and the other Wall Street Welfare Queens will actually do this. None I'm guessing.

At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To "Go Galt", as a deliberate movement, seems pointless. There is no need to tell anyone to do this. Socialist policies cause everyone to "Go Galt" by their simple existence. If you raise taxes, increase regulations and institute protectionism then you make all economic activities more expensive and therefore less rewarding, the law of supply and demand does its magic, and wallah! Society has "Gone Galt".

Rather than urging the public to do what they're already doing anyways, it would be a better use of these people's time to educate the public about the fundamental laws of economics ... supply and demand, Say's law, time preference, the tragedy of the commons, broken window fallacy, and so on. The public must understand why and how they are being screwed before they will be able to fight against it.

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Anon, I agree. It is rather obvious and this is one of the reasons I suspect those truly pushing this are merely using the discontent to merely gain power - where they will promptly do the same thing, except favouring their cronies and causes.

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"while Bush also called for $750 billion in corporate welfare and bailouts, no one was screaming to "Go Galt" then"

Well, duh. That was supposed to fix it all. We have now reached the point where the lobster realizes he's in boiling water: enough is enough.

At 11:45 PM, Blogger Temujin said...

I'm with you right up until you call Greenspan an "Randian".

Alan Greenspan may have been a follower of Rand and a believer in Objectivist principles, but his actions of the past 25 years (Rand died in 1982, btw) prove that he wasn't loyal to her or the ideology. I'm no expert on Rand, but even a cursory reading of her essays show she never would have condoned Greenspan's actions as Fed Chairman. In fact, Alan Greespan circa 1966 would NEVER have condoned Alan Greenspan's actions as Fed Chairman!

But everything else is pretty well bang-on. I remmeber reading about people not tipping their servers, as some sort of statement against wealth redistribution and "unearned" wealth. Stupid, really.

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Mike said...


Yeah, that line was supposed to be sarcasm. I still see some head shaking posts at Lew Rockwell about how Greenspan turned traitor.

I'm merely pointing out how, when its convenient, accepting Rand is just fine for many on the right. And when it isn't, well that's just fine too.

At least Austrians and other libertarians like Rockwell, Thomas Woods or Roderick Long have remained honest.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Temujin said...

Yeah, that line was supposed to be sarcasm. I still see some head shaking posts at Lew Rockwell about how Greenspan turned traitor.

Ahhh, sorry about that, now I pick up what you're dropping.

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I have to wonder: what is it precisely that Obama has done that has made people "lose interest" in their businesses. I think he raised taxes on super-rich people back to something lower than they were in the Clinton era?

Oh no!

I read Fountainhead and thought it was pretty interesting when it talked about structures vs facades, doing what you think is right and the stupidity of pretending that anyone can do anything. But I also found it extremely preachy, pretending that anytime two people cooperate they are doomed to failure.

I don't see where these people are getting the idea, from Rand's work, that it's a good idea to screw over the working poor. Maybe it's the same bunch that thought bombing villages in Vietnam would teach people to stop supporting the Viet Cong?

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Mark Richard Francis said...

I think it's also facile to boil the so-called 'productive class' down to being all about money. There's a point where the primary currency collected and acquired isn't money, it's power. This may explain why so many of those leading corporations like Bear Stearns actually took huge loses as they held onto the stock even as the company stumbled. If it's just money you want, well, any of these people could have bailed years ago and lived their days very rich. The want for power is arguably what keeps them at it. Power generates much hubris as well.

This doesn't mean that very high marginal tax rates on upper income earners doesn't affect where they apply their talents, of course.

Still, I have no sympathy. Corporations stink anyway and are little more than vehicles to absolve the people running them of personal responsibility. I doubt we'd see such a massive concentration of business in the hands of a few if owners were actually held responsible for poor business practices and losses. As it stands, we bail them out to preserve our interests, and they simply pay themselves even more.

I simply have never been able to believe that anyone's job performance is worth what some of these characters make. Certainly, we're obviously deep into the realm of moral hazards when failing corporations nevertheless pay bonuses to execs.

Greenspan recently admitted that his personal model of the world didn't include the now obvious reality that corporations are quite capable of shooting themselves in both feet en mass. He never seemed to realize that officers and directors, though required to operate in the interests of the shareholders, define those interests as narrowly as possible, rarely look beyond the next quarter, and hold their own personal interests primary.

This rotten corporatism is what lead my away from classical liberalism, and into the murky (but I say necessary), world of social libertarianism.


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