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What's Not Quite Right in the World?

Posted by parrotpatriot on October 30, 2009

In my last post, I finished with the question, “Who is John Galt?” For those of you who have had the life-changing experience of reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, you know the question is a rhetorical one that is used in the book to express a sense that something is not quite right with the world.

From Ayn Rand: Capitalism’s enduring crusader

Born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum in 1905 in St Petersburg, Russia, she was the daughter of an entrepreneur whose business was seized by the Bolsheviks. In 1925 she fled to America, changed her name to Rand, and began working for Cecil B. DeMille in Hollywood, before moving to New York to become a writer. She wrote two short novels before gaining popularity in 1943 with The Fountainhead.

I think we are living in a time and place that resembles the land from which Ayn fled. A glimpse of that time and place can be found in Ayn Rand’s fiction. To make it easier for my stalker, George, who can’t read 40 pages or more, I’ve just taken a few quotes out of my 1,168-page copy of Atlas Shrugged, and my hope is that it will help you put your finger on the thing that doesn’t seem quite right in the world, and hopefully put George’s finger on the thing which is so unsettling to him. In one scene of Atlas Shrugged, Dagny is confronted with a lack of copper wire to repair a broken telephone line, and as a result of resources being diverted through government intervention, she has no train on which to deliver it. So, while her father’s Taggert Transcontinental keeps “registering losses”, she examines her options:

IMG_0076

Six weeks ago, Train Number 193 had been sent with a load of steel, not to Faulkton, Nebraska, where the Spencer Machine Tool Company, the best machine tool concern still in existence, had been idle for two weeks, waiting for the shipment-but to Sand Creek, Illinois, where Confederated Machines had been wallowing in debt for over a year, producing unreliable goods at unpredictable times. The steel had been allocated by a directive which explained that the Spencer Machine Tool Company was a rich concern, able to wait, while Confederated Machines was bankrupt and could not be allowed to collapse, being the sole source of livelihood of the community of Sand Creek, Illinois. The Spencer Machine Tool Company had closed a month ago. Confederated Machines had closed two weeks later.

The people of Sand Creek, Illinois, had been placed on national relief, but no food could be found for them in the empty granaries of the nation at the frantic call of the moment-so the seed grain of the farmers of Nebraska had been seized by order of the Unification Board-and Train Number 194 had carried the unplanted harvest and the future of the people of Nebraska to be consumed by the people of Illinois. “In this enlightened age,” Eugene Lawson had said in a radio broadcast, “we have come, at last, to realize that each one of us is his brother’s keeper.”

me and dottie

Over time, the main characters in Atlas realize what was wrong was:

…they were serving need as their highest ruler, need as first claim upon them, need as their standard of value, as the coin of their realm, as more sacred than right and life. Men had been pushed into a pit where, shouting that man is his brother’s keeper, each was devouring his neighbor and was being devoured by his neighbor’s brother, each was proclaiming the righteousness of the unearned and wondering who was stripping the skin off his back, each was devouring himself, while screaming in terror that some unknowable evil was destroying the earth.

Dagny, contemplates her position:

What were they counting on? Those who had once simpered: “I don’t want to destroy the rich, I only want to seize a little of their surplus to help the poor, just a little, they’ll never miss it!”-then, later, had snapped: “The tycoons can stand being squeezed, they’ve amassed enough to last them for three generations”-and then, later, had yelled: “Why should the people suffer while businessmen have reserves to last a year?”-now were screaming: “Why should we starve while some people have reserves to last a week?” What were they counting on?-she wondered.

What Is Not Quite Right With The World??

Bail outs:

Bear Stearns

Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac

American International Group (A.I.G.)

Auto Industry

Troubled Asset Relief Program (T.A.R.P.)

Citigroup

Bank of America

Are newspapers next? This article from The Hill says Obama is open to newspaper bail out bill for struggling newspapers.

The president said he is “happy to look at” bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called “Newspaper Revitalization Act,” that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations.

As a side note: Non-profit status is usually only given to associations or organizations that have some charitable or philanthropic purpose. The irs.gov website gives them this description in Publication 557:

An organization may qualify for exemption from federal income tax if it is organized and operated exclusively for one or more of the following purposes: Religious. Charitable. Scientific. Testing for public safety. Literary. Educational. Fostering national or international amateur sports competition. The prevention of cruelty to children or animals.

Hard to see where newspaper fits into that definition, isn’t it? And here’s the real sweet spot for a 501(c)(3): Contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations “are deductible as charitable contributions on the donor’s federal income tax return.”

Where is my bail out? handouts

As in the story, when one segment of the economy is squeezed by bureaucrats, there is a ripple effect, and another segment blows out the other side. Like loopholes in the tax code, legislators are continually trying to “plug holes” in the distortions of the market that THEY create with their on-going attempts to “protect the people”, or to gain the support of one class or group of people or another, or for the good of the country or world.

Take for example Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Premise: Poor people can’t work and save up to buy houses like the rest of us. (Throw in something about race too, to incite white guilt.)

Proposed solution: The government backs mortgages for people who are financially unable to make the monthly payments.

They see a problem, they write legislation to appease voters, and then are never accountable for the results.

Results: Financial crises, banks that are “too big to fail”, a huge tax burden for taxpayers and their children (who are on the line for the interest on this debt), government’s endless printing of the dollar, and, oh yeah, “poor” people losing their homes. Oh, but don’t worry if you become homeless, there is always Grove Park Plaza Apartments in Chicago.

The wads of worthless paper money were growing heavier in the pockets of the nation, but there was less and less for that money to buy. In September, a bushel of wheat had cost eleven dollars; it had cost thirty dollars in November; it had cost one hundred in December; it was now approaching the price of two hundred-while the printing presses of the government treasury were running a race with starvation, and losing. (Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957)

What Else is Not Quite Right With the World?

Now we’re back to problem and proposed solution. Would you believe it is **more regulation**?? Can anyone guess what the result of this will be? Oh, I don’t know, any or all of the following:

“Lack of faith,” a beefy speaker was snarling on the platform, in the tone of a street brawl, “lack of faith is the only thing we got to fear! If we have faith in the plans of our leaders, why, the plans will work and we’ll all have prosperity and ease and plenty. It’s the fellows who go around doubting and destroying our morale, it’s they who are keeping us in shortages and misery. But we’re not going to let them do it much longer, we’re here to protect the people-and if any of those doubting smarties come around, believe you me, we’ll take care of them!” -(One of the moochers in government, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957)

“We can’t theorize about the future,” cried Wesley Mouch, when there’s an immediate national collapse to avoid! We’ve got to save the country’s economy! We’ve go to do something!  (Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957)

“So it’s only a matter of giving him a chance to recover, a helping hand to bridge the gap, a bit of temporary assistance, nothing more. All we have to do is just equalize the sacrifice-then everybody will recover and prosper.”  (Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957)

alientravelguide.com

“From the rites of the jungle witch-doctors, which distorted reality into grotesque absurdities, stunted the minds of their victims and kept them in terror of the supernatural for stagnant stretches of centuries-to the supernatural doctrines of the Middle Ages, which kept men huddling on the mud floors of their hovels, in terror that the evil might steal the soup they had worked eighteen hours to earn-to the seedy little smiling professor who assures you that you brain has no capacity to think, that you have no means of perception and must blindly obey the omnipotent will of that supernatural force: Society-all of it is the same performance for the same and only purpose: to reduce you to the kind of pulp that has surrendered the validity of its consciousness. But is cannot be done to you without your consent. If you permit it to be done, you deserve it.” (John Galt, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957)

The Nature of the Beast is Beastly

I was recently confronted by someone I’ll call Facebook Leftie Friend #2, who suggested Socialism was the way to go because Capitalism was Survival of the Fittest and was, in his words, “beastly”. A friend who teaches high school Biology, upon my showing her what he said, paused for a moment, reflecting, then replied, “But he’s talking about changing the nature of something that is. It is the nature of the beast. It is just the way it is.

I probably should have suggested Facebook Leftie Friend #2 try doing as Saul Alinsky suggests for community organizers and operate within the system.

“As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be-it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be. That means working in the system.”  (Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, Author’s Prologue) 

As I tried to explain to Facebook Leftie Friend #2, it is the nature of both beasts – Capitalism and Socialism. People, essential to both systems, are beastly. The difference is, Socialism puts more hands between you and your choices and consequences, and thus increases the likelihood that decisions will be made to benefit each set of hands in the transfer, rather than just yours.

In our system, the government’s role has become to collect taxes through the barrel of a gun-or at least through levies-and redistribute it to those “too big to fail”, or the “poor”. The government transfers wealth from the workers to the people in government, for them to give to their friends (as in the case of the Freddie and Fannie bonuses), to throw parties or fly to New York for dinner, and then give back to you, wasted and ineffective – and all for “the good of the people”.

For the good of what people?

“If you search your code for guidance, for an answer to the question, ‘What is the good?’ – the only answer you will find is ‘The good of others.’ The good is whatever others wish, whatever you feel they feel they wish, or whatever you feel they ought to feel. ‘The good of others’ is a magic formula that transforms anything into gold, a formula to be recited as a guarantee of moral glory and as a fumigator for any action, even the slaughter of a continent. Your standard of virtue is not an object, not an act, not a principle, but an intention. You need no proof, no reasons, no success, you need not achieve in fact the good of others – all you need to know is that your motive was the good of others, not your own. Your only definition of the good is a negation: the good is the ‘non-good for me.’ (Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957)

praying mantis eats mate you tube videos

To operate within the system as it is, one is best served when there are as few as possible pairs of hands between you and your choices and consequences. That is called freedom. A bad choice for you and you fall. You don’t collectively bring everyone else down with you. Bringing everyone down would not promote the survival of the species. Is that beastly?

Should it not simply be the choice of the shareholders of a corporation to make decisions that affect the consequences – including the possible risk of loss of investment? Does not the investment represent the labor of the shareholder? Are not his dollars to do with as he wishes? Does not his labor belong to him? Shouldn’t the risk be his own?

Are you your brother’s keeper?

It is our nature to seek our own self-interest and that of our families and friends. Our reaction to the one of slow, steady “progressive” policies, which limit our choices and our pursuit of self-interest, is toleration. As noted by the writers of the Declaration of Independence:

…mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

But you will naturally meet with resistance any quick and massive efforts to remove our choices and thus, remove our freedom. That is why up to 2 million people marched on D.C. on 9/12.

Does this mean we shouldn’t help others if we wish? 

“Such is the secret core of your creed, the other half of your double standard: it is immoral to live by your own effort, but moral to live by the effort of others-it is immoral to consume your own product, but moral to consume the products of others-it is immoral to earn, but moral to mooch-it is the parasites who are the moral justification for the existence of the producers, but the existence of the parasites is an end in itself-it is evil to profit by achievement, but good to profit by sacrifice-it is evil to create your own happiness, but good to enjoy it at the price of the blood of others.  Your code divides mankind into two castes and commands them to live by opposite rules: those who may desire anything and those who may desire nothing, the chosen and the damned, the riders and the carriers, the eaters and the eaten.” (John Galt, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957)

“The answer you evade, the monstrous answer is: No, the takers are not evil, provided they did not earn the value you gave them. It is not immoral for them to accept it, provided they are unable to produce it, unable to deserve it, unable to give you any value in return. It is not immoral for them to enjoy it, provided they do not obtain it by right.” (John Galt, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957)

No, we can continue to be the most generous people in the world.   The choice of whom to give our support should be ours, not some bureaucrat’s. My hands, my labor, my choices, my consequences, my failures, my achievements. The essence of what’s RIGHT in the world. The essence of Freedom. 

With the disastrous effects of government intervention, economic failures, fear-mongering “for the good of the people”, and massive debt we and our prosperity will have to repay, you have to ask the question, “Are government shackles about to close around my wrists forever binding me to my brother? ”

 Do you know what is not right in the world now?

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One Response to “What's Not Quite Right in the World?”

  1. Donna Morgan said

    The Biology teacher stating that Capitalism was the “beast” was right on. All of nature since the beginning of time has surived because their “forebearers were attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so”. (Bill Bryson, 2003)They were fit enough to survive and reproduce, thus spreading their genes.

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