Friday, March 06, 2009

The meme grows....

David Weigel at the Washington Independent interviewed me for an article on "going John Galt":

”Do you ever wonder,” wrote Dr. Helen Smith, “after dealing with all that is going on with the economy and the upcoming election, if it’s getting to be time to ‘go John Galt?’”

It is October 12, 2008 and inspired by Barack Obama’s curbside debate with Joe the Plumber — and the likelihood of his election to the presidency — Smith, a forensic psychologist in Knoxville, Tenn., was tossing the readers of her blog a serious question. It had been years since she had read “Atlas Shrugged.” “I had to refresh my memory with the Cliffs Notes,” she said on Thursday in an interview. But the themes of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel, and the themes of the climactic 40-page speech by self-imposed social outcast “John Galt”, had stuck with her.

The themes had stuck with her readers, too....

You can read the whole thing here.



Blogger Andy said...

Of course, the implication of "going John Galt" is that only the bankers, doctors and forensic psychologists deserve to be in Galt's Gulch.

In lieu of teaching your child algebra this week, Dr. Helen, I'll be contributing to Palin 2012.

In lieu of responding to the three alarm blaze at your house, Dr Helen, the fire department has contributed to Palin 2012.

I could go on....

4:57 PM, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Let's be honest. The only people who can "go Galt" are very wealthy people who can set up their private fire, police and roads. Since the government won't allow even that to uber-wealthy, literally no one can "go Galt". It's a pure fiction by Ayn Rand. More wish fulfillment on her part then any basis in reality. Has any rich man ever done that in history?

5:15 PM, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

Did you not read the book? Going Galt did not always imply going to Galt's Gulch. It also meant contributing as little as possible to the looter society and taking care of your own.

6:03 PM, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Happy - in what ways? Are there certain companies that should be boycotted because they are part of the "looter society"? I already don't give money to large charity organizations as I have long believed they do no good.

6:07 PM, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Andy said...

Ah. I knew we were at least one short of the thousand points of light--which conservatives would want to rely on to replace government intervention for the most vulnerable in society.

So, Happy, who are the looters? Dr Helen's waiters? The policemen and firemen and teachers in our towns?

Should the Masters of the Universe who run GE Capital, AIG, BofA, Merrill, Lehman, Bear, etc all be boycotting the world? Are these your Hank Rearden's and John Galts? If so, I wish they had started boycotting many years ago.

There is a major assumption to objectivism that Rand does not address in her 100 page speech. It is that everyone has the same opportunities, and thus if they don't achieve, they are not worthy. This assumption is, of course, invalid. It turns Atlas Shrugged into nothing more than a fun read about pirates and business titans. But it also makes it a dangerous philosophy to govern by.

If Ms. Rand had had a child with downs, prior to gaining minor wealth from The Fountainhead, would she have diatribed against spreading the burdens of distressed citizens across the state?

Would it be better if all of the 65 year old "looters" who's life savings have been wiped out over the past six months did not have social security to fall back on? Should they start living under bridges?

Should the "looters" who chose to be firemen instead of derivative salesmen, and thus earn $30k instead of $300k be taxed at the same rate? They have the same minimum costs to live--gas to commute, food, energy, etc--but very different opportunities to gain wealth (I'm being nice).

6:32 PM, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Andy - but without wealth to tax you don't get nice fire departments. I've noticed that fire stations in rich suburbs are much nicer then ones in first-ring suburbs. The thing about modern life is that we are all interconnected due to specialization of talents.

Virtually nobody grows their own food, so if you're gonna "Go Galt" that's where you start.

6:38 PM, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

It was Alex who said only certain people would deserve to go to Galt's Gulch. As I recall, she had great respect for teachers in her book. So, yes, I guess certain people did get to go to Galt's Gulch, the ones who were not of the looter persusion

As far as the Masters of the Universe go, Andy, I think there were plenty of people who would most certainly qualify as the "looters" in her book and I wholeheartedly agree that it would be the scum like the ones that ran GE, AIG, Fannie, Freddie, etc., into the ground who would most certainly qualify for that title in her book. That is Ayn Rand's terms, looters, which is why I used it.

That is why I asked if you had read the book, not as an insult. She does focus on "industrialists" as she calls them, but there were plenty of other people who she admired and would most certainly not be included in the looter terminology.

Most assuredly the bastards who ran the banking system, the politicians who should have been monitoring them, and media who should have been investigating this would all be considered looters. So, please go re-read the book.

6:56 PM, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Happy - I didn't say that only certain people belong in the gulch. What I really mean is let's look at what are the realistic prospects for establishing an alternative libertarian society that can defend itself militarily against the USA.

7:04 PM, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Noah Smith said...

You know, if you did have a Galt-style society filled with only entrepreneurs and engineers, who would waste his/her time sweeping the floors?

7:32 PM, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Mister Wolf said...

Alex, Andy, and Company,

Brilliant argument...especially the constant straw men and the complete lack on comprehension of what a looter and a producer is.

Basically, a producer is someone who gives more value to society than he takes. If you take more than you give, you're a looter. Therefore, if a janitor gives x amount in value and costs y long as x > y, he's a producer. Likewise a CEO that costs more value than he gives would be considered a looter. Granted, value is an abstract concept and isn't the same as price.

I have more to say on the subject but I need to fetch some food.

10:46 PM, March 06, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Should the Masters of the Universe who run GE Capital, AIG, BofA, Merrill, Lehman, Bear, etc all be boycotting the world?"


I think a lot of people - particularly on this message board - mistakenly assume that everyone who has a position of power or a good job or the external trappings of wealth etc. is a competent person and deserves that position. They simply equate the two; the boss HAS TO BE smarter and more competent than everyone else.

That's clearly not the case. There are a lot of incompetent boobs running big companies and in other positions of power.

6:55 AM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger uncle ken said...

"Going Galt" doesn't mean you must disapear and re-merge in Ouray, CO (Rand's inspiration for the Gulch) after a harrowing plane ride. It could simply mean scaling back your productivity to the point where you no longer fund the DC kleptocracy.

I would love to see an organized tax revolt. If a significant portion of the top 20% of taxpayers just stopped paying taxes FedGovCo would grind to a halt. But as individuals we don't have to wait for that - take a year off and go fishing. In that sense, Obama could be the best thing that ever happened to us!

7:36 AM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

The article quotes a person saying that "Going Galt" is the equivalent of moving to Canada if Bush wins. Huh?

Moving to Canada means that George Bush is so outrageous that you can't stand to live in a country governed by him. "Going Galt" means staying the country that you love but reducing your tax burden.

After all, isn't "Going Galt" just another term for tax avoidance, that is, ordering your affairs to pay less tax? That is totally legal and probably wise and is certainly not the illegal act of tax evasion.

7:36 AM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...


I agree, I saw that line and figured it was just a way for the author to end the piece on a sour note. It is perfectly legal to work less to reduce one's tax burden.

7:40 AM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger M. Simon said...

who would waste his/her time sweeping the floors?

A person who saw dirty floors as a business opportunity?

7:48 AM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger pst314 said...

"That is totally legal and probably wise and is certainly not the illegal act of tax evasion."

Didn't an Obama administration official say something the other day about how the government needs to "do something" about tax avoidance?

9:06 AM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger uncle ken said...

Who said anything about tax avoidance? I think the idea is to generate less income and become one of the untaxed masses instead of an evil rich person.

9:20 AM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

Am I the only one driven nuts by some of the terminology Weigel uses in his article? When talking about the painter who "...painted less, reducing his income, in order to dodge taxes..." Dodge taxes? Can you imagine that mentality? Does Weigel feel the painter is 'obligated' to earn as much as possible so that the government can collect as much revenue as possible?

His throw away sentence,"The activists who have latched onto 'Atlas Shrugged' don't spend much time thinking about the heroic-capitalist side of the analogy." I would love to have heard more about that. Would Weigel recognize a heroic capitalist? Yes, he has a point. People are mad as hell right now but most people do not have the power to affect change, so they do what they can. But Republicans in congress should have some power, at least a voice, and they seem for the most part to be as idiotic as the Democrats on the left. Of course, I live in California where the Republicans here just eat the corpse of the California taxpayer at a slower pace than the Democrats.

10:34 AM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger . said...

The thing what I find valuable about the idea of "Going Galt," is stepping out of the dialectic. The left-right march to bring society into a socialist totalitarian state is to use radical leftism to spearhead change and then the rightist backlash is what consolodates the changes.

For example.

No-fault divorce was introduced without much public demand for it. It was spearheaded by a small group of agent provacateurs - radicals.

As time goes on, the left-leaning laws regarding no-fault divorce become more and more ridiculous, and causes a build-up of right-wing "backlash."

When the backlash becomes big enough, the march to the right begins which "consolodates the change."

The government will pass MORE laws to "fine-tune" the divorce laws - it will allow the right to have some of it's more conservative changes allowed.

Shared parenting is an example of this. It is the push back against the left movement.

And when the right wins the changes to such laws as custody and whatnot, it consolodates the following:

- Divorce is still proper, but only needed to be "fine-tuned." (People will stop questioning whether we should have divorce).

- The government & courts are consolodated as the proper arbiters of family life... even though beforehand, society would have run the gov't off with pitchforks for interfering in their personal lives in any way.

Another right-left of the dialectic, is due to Paternity Fraud.

Pass ridiculous left inspired laws allowing people to get massively burned by paternity fraud.

A ground swell of right wing anger builds up... they start demanding, what? They demand mandatory DNA testing at birth to prevent paternity fraud.

The result? The entire population soon becomes entered into a nationwide DNA data-base... something HIGHLY dangerous to personal freedom.

How did that happen? People would have recoiled in horror before, but NOW, they have requested it! And from their new masters too! The government.

"Going Galt" means to me that it is like playing tic-tac-toe... it is a game that is impossible to win.

The march to socialism NEEDS constant conflict between the left and right.

Therefore, the only winning move is "not to play the game."

That is how to end the dialectical march into socialism & the socialist re-engineering of the population.

4:28 PM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Rob --

Therefore, the only winning move is "not to play the game."

You really need to refine that. Not playing the game will also allow those in position to remain instead of being removed.

Divorce has been around for millennia. It's nothing new. Neither new is the concept by some that you should be permanently nailed to someone toxic.

Progress also requires constant conflict. Conflict is the state of not being dead.

5:17 PM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger . said...

Yes... but Ayn Rand wrote about Communism, which is based upon the conflict tradition and the Hegelian Dialectic.

I was merely making a point about how left-wing politics and right-wing backlash, are used to move forth a socialist agenda.

The Soviet Union, for example, did not always push hard to the left.

It pushed hard to the left for certain periods of time, and then consolodated the gains by allowing rightward movements known as "perestroika, glasnost, and detente."

Sometimes they did it as well to keep their state functioning. Socialism is a known economic failure - Marxists know that too.

The goal of Marxism is International Socialism... so they needed to keep their state functioning as they enabled the dialectic on the world-wide chess board.

So, they would push hard to the left to effect radical change, and then they would ease up to the right, to consolodate the gains, restimulate their economy, or build up their military.

China is going through one such period right now by allowing certain amounts of Capitalism within their Communist country.

Understanding the Dialectic from a Socialist/Marxist point of view is EXTREMELY important.

All Marxist leaders "qualified" themselves by how well they understood the dialectic... how to manipulate it to achieve Socialist goals. Kinda like pulling down their pants to see who's bigger... but philosophically.

Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao etc etc - all rose up on the basis of their ability to understand the Dialectic and how to manipulate it.

Remember the phrase "useful idiots." The idiots really were useful... it was not an insult they were talking about.

The trick of the Dialectic is NOT who gets the bigger piece of the pie, but rather that both sides run to the government to beg for their piece.

Ayn Rand despised Communism, remember?

How did Communism "end." It wasn't by popular uprising (although that was tried)... it was "ended" by people "dropping out," and refusing to play the game anymore.

If it really "ended" is another question, or if the "ending" was merely another part of the Dialectic itself, as Gorbachev himself indicated it was.

Have we become more, or less socialist over the past two decades?

6:08 PM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger . said...

Marx/Marxists (International Socialists), took the Hegelian Dialectic and “stood it on its head.” They have a pre-determined outcome which they desire, and then they seek the arguments/actions to enable that outcome, by controlling the argument via manipulation of the Hegelian Dialectic.

”Dialectical thought is related to vulgar thinking in the same way that a motion picture is related to a still photograph. The motion picture does not outlaw the still photograph but combines a series of them according to the laws of motion.” – Leon Trotsky

What is the Hegelian Dialectic?

Diagram of the Marxist Dialectic

6:31 PM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger Andy said...

Ummm. Do any remaining Republicans have a background in economics. Does the equation GDP = C+I+G+X-M mean anything to any of the Republicans in Congress? Do they know that they are playing Russian roulette with the country to score cheap political points. Do you guys truly think that the idea of this stimulus package is to march the country into socialism? Does the zero lower bound problem mean anything to you folks?

BTW, I love the implicit megalomania of "going Galt," as if some young striver wouldn't step in and take over for any clown who decided that moving up 2ppts in a tax rate, back to where it was in the 90s, during a healthy economy, was too much to take.

12:29 AM, March 08, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Heaven forfend if our glorious capitalist heroes Go Galt! Imagine how parasite government workers like my schoolteacher mom would have suffered if the guys at Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers and AIG had gone off to hide in Galt's Gulch! Perish the thought!

Nobody's going to Go Galt because their income would cease. It might sound great in a utopian fantasy novel, but utopian fantasy novels aren't real life.

1:01 AM, March 08, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

BTW, I love the implicit megalomania of "going Galt," as if some young striver wouldn't step in and take over for any clown who decided that moving up 2ppts in a tax rate, back to where it was in the 90s, during a healthy economy, was too much to take.

It is very entertaining, I have to say. I don't know which scenario would make me laugh harder. 1) a bunch of Stanley O'Neill and Hank Greenberg type losers go hide in a valley somewhere and afterward everything goes on as normal, or the most likely occurrance, lots of right-wing nuts claim they're going to Go Galt, and, after realizing that actually makes no sense at all, gradually act like they never said that.

I can't figure out which scenario would be funnier.

But it's a moot point, anyway, because Going Galt is nonsense and virtually nobody's going to actually do it.

1:10 AM, March 08, 2009  
Blogger uncle ken said...

"But it's a moot point, anyway, because Going Galt is nonsense and virtually nobody's going to actually do it."

Get to work Steve. We want our checks.

3:17 AM, March 08, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The goal of socialism is communism.
Isn't that a no brainer?

9:35 AM, March 08, 2009  
Blogger M. Simon said...

Nobody's going to Go Galt because their income would cease.

How about they reduce their income and take longer vacations. That is what Swedes do.

Or perhaps they go into barter and the black market.

Lots of ways to go John Galt without giving up all your income.

In fact the black market for home repairs is thriving in the US.

12:13 PM, March 08, 2009  
Blogger Jim Hart said...

"Doctor" Helen:

Go Galt!


10:47 PM, March 08, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...

Jim Hart,

I am already doing that. What do you think this blog is about? I am trading my day job for hanging out annoying people like you and having a ball.

7:38 AM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger Andy said...

It's entertaining how "going Galt" is/would be a self-identifying phenomenon.

It's a shame that Galt's Gulch doesn't exist. Watching all of the would-be John Galts and Dagny Taggarts with their dog-eared copies of Atlas Shrugged get landing rights at the Gulch would make for compelling television.

Imagine the tears and shock from Dr. Helen, Glen Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, Fred Barnes, etc, when told that they were actually dangerous looters, and not producers.

Fire up the popcorn.

8:51 AM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger uncle ken said...

Jeez Andy I just did my taxes this weekend. Previously I have always been forced to pay a "dangerous looter" penalty. Not this year! You owe me!

Galt's Gulch did not exist to the outside world, it was never publicized. Instead, robbed of the productive class, the outside world collapsed. The trains literally stopped running.

I live in Galt's Gulch now. So do a lot of others.

Enjoy your popcorn.

9:09 AM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger Andy said...

I suspect I've been subsidizing you for a long time, Ken. But unlike a lot of others who've done well financially, I understand that a lot was based on luck, and based on the infrastructure that the government and my taxes helped put in place.

I'm not so deluded by the right wing press to think that at a marginal tax rate of ~36% we were in capitalist nirvana, and at the proposed rate of ~40% we are now socialists. I recognize that even at 40%, the top tax rate is in the LOWEST QUARTILE of top marginal rates since the income tax was instituted.

9:28 AM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger uncle ken said...

"based on the infrastructure that the government and my taxes helped put in place"

I was just thinking yesterday how the apparently malignant potholes that are turning our urban streets into moonscapes tell us far more about our current economic state than Katy Couric ever will. The infrastructure is crumbling.

"even at 40%, the top tax rate is in the LOWEST QUARTILE"

Ah but prior to Reagan cutting the top marginal rate back to 28% the tax code had more loopholes than Swiss cheese. Not now.

9:39 AM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger Andy said...

"Ah but prior to Reagan cutting the top marginal rate back to 28% the tax code had more loopholes than Swiss cheese."

....another Republican meme with little support (in terms of personal taxes).

In terms of the potholes, Bush, to support his lowering of taxes while at the same time dramatically increasing spending, cut back state matching funds for infrastructure. So in exchange for the $500/yr tax break you got, you now get an extra $600/yr in auto maintenance. Republicanism at its best.

Is Bush there at the Gulch with you, Ken. Is he the blacksmith to your carpenter?

It's also fun that everyone is now 1)an Atlas Shrugged scholar, 2) an Atlas Shrugged literalist, 3) a pendant, and 4) convinced that everyone who does not agree that the current Republican party is fantastic has just not read Rand.

9:54 AM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger uncle ken said...

The U.S. Congress passed the Tax Reform Act (TRA) of 1986, (Pub.L. 99-514, 100 Stat. 2085, enacted October 22, 1986) to simplify the income tax code, broaden the tax base and eliminate many tax shelters and other preferences. Although often referred to as the second of the two "Reagan tax cuts" (the Kemp-Roth Tax Cut of 1981 being the first), the bill was actually officially sponsored by Democrats, Richard Gephardt of Missouri in the House of Representatives and Bill Bradley of New Jersey in the Senate.
The tax reform was designed to be revenue neutral, but because individual taxes were decreased while corporate taxes were increased, Congressional Budget Office estimates (which ignore corporate taxes) suggested every tax payer saw a decrease in their tax bill. As of 2009, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 was the most recent major simplification of the tax code, drastically reducing the number of deductions and the number of tax brackets.

Fwiw I am not a Republican. I loathe and detest both parties. The Spartans had it right. Leaders served a one-year term. The the citizens voted on whether the leader had done a good job. Leaders who did not receive accolades were executed. There's a term limit I could get behind!

10:00 AM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger . said...

If I were to venture a guess, I would say that the government does not really care if the top income earners "Go Galt."

I would say, given the massive amounts of money they injected into the economy, with more being lined up to inject all along the way... well, the odds of inflation or hyper-inflation rise with each passing day.

Wages always lag inflation, but, wages do rise after inflation... and both might go up a lot.

Imagine if it were the early 1970's, when people were working for $6,000/$7,000/$8,000 per annum. (I was a little one back then, so I don't remember exactly the wages).

I do remember the Lottery being only $150,000 - and that was enough to set you up for life!

But, those people back then, earning $7,500/yr wouldn't have cared much at all if the government had said they were gonna tax people heavily who made $25,000/yr.

Couple of years of runaway inflation... and gee, by the early 80's, $25,000 was somewhere around the average GDP per Capita.

This is far more likely the scenario for the future.

By 2020, we will all be earning $250,000/yr... a Chev Cavalier will cost $175,000, and your average home will cost over $1,000,000.

They just won't remove the tax as inflation rises, and in that way they can bring the vast majority of people under a much heavier yoke of taxation.

You guys in the USA now have your tax freedom day somewhere in April, I believe.

Ours in Canada is in the beginning of July (we have substandard healthcare, and not much of a military to speak of), heavily socialist Europe now pays around 70% of their income back to the government... and back in the USSR, the average fella paid around 90%.

Either that, or this whole thing is a big scam to collapse the US Dollar and replace it with the Amero.

If the Amero thing happens, watch for the political body that pops up to regulate it... specifically if your rights are granted by God so that the government cannot take your rights away.

International Laws and Treaties supercede your Constitution, remember.

The United Nations, for example, declares that your rights are granted to you by The State, and are determined by the limitations of Law (like the old USSR Constitution).

I've been working on "Going Galt" for a few years now... got my ducks lined up, and starting to look for cheap land, although I'll bet next year will be cheaper... but, it's getting right. Seen 120acres with a creek for $95,000... hmmm. That's smoking cheap for around here. I've also been studying off-grid technology & homes for a while now - some are not so bad. Not too earth-muffiny... because I don't want anyone mistaking me for a lefty, lol.

Even if nothing bad does happen, the idea of "Going Deep Galt" is really appealing to me.

People are nuts.

I'd rather hang-out with cows and chickens.

11:06 PM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger WTSherman said...

If you enjoy the third rate philosophy of Ayn Rand (essentially Nietzsche* dumbed down for highschool students and humanities majors) then you'll appreciate this solution for "going Galt" (Ugh, another repellant joiner catch phrase):

1. Move to Somalia -- no government, no taxes, no welfare state.

2. Use your indispensible skills as a day trader, realtor, fast food franchise owner, pundit, Wal-Mart employee, or yes, even forensic psychologist to produce the necessary capital goods and products for the sustenance of your lard-ass industrial lifestyle.

3. Kick back and enjoy the fruit of your labor.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against people who are actually capable of sustaining themselves independent of the grid (unlike most of you, I have actually lived it). I simply believe that the majority of people espousing this caca are the loathesome obese mouthbreathers (i.e., salt of the earth) you see patrolling the aisles at Wal-Mart or the acquisitor class she-males like Santelli who are using this as their battle cry after they piss on the floor and jump up and down in the puddle because they didn't get an X-Box for Christmas. Envison Neil Cavuto, or Rush busting sod or splitting wood? Funny, huh?

I am not saying that the liberals are any better. The stupid f-ing "move to Canada" crap (as if they would tolerate a huge load of American dross shuttling across their borders) makes my eyes bleed. I am just saying that most of you are full of (sh)it. So STFU and go back to whinning about your stock portfolio while you cruise abot the supermarket in your "cardiac cripple" cart.

* Sorry Fred, you were a basket-case, but at least you weren't boring.

1:04 PM, March 12, 2009  
Blogger Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

Perhaps it should be called going Adam Smith.

1:09 PM, March 12, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

WTSherman - I'm going Galt.

1:42 PM, March 12, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

So STFU and go back to whinning about your stock portfolio while you cruise abot the supermarket in your "cardiac cripple" cart.

LOL! BTW, most people who ride around in those carts are poor Democrats.

1:43 PM, March 12, 2009  

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