A new film is to be released on the 15th of April: Atlas Shrugged Part 1:
The book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand details the decay and collapse of a society from real wealth-creating activities to a society that uses policy and laws to appropriate that wealth from others. This leads to a strike by the true wealth creators, leading to a slow motion collapse of society.
The book is based on a society in the US and it tells the story of a family owned railroad business. At the time the book was written, the jet-setting and interstate car age was only just in its infancy.
A parallel seen today will be with the off-shoring of production and jobs with nothing to replace it. We also see in the West a rise of regulation and other enforcements that strangle new enterprises at birth. You may have heard the phrase ‘Too Big to Fail’ with reference to the banks but we now have ‘Too Small to Succeed’! The sums involved with all this regulation and enforcement are staggering. Ayn Rand comments on this state of affairs in the book:-
“Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard- the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money- the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law- men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims- then money becomes its creators’ avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.
Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion- when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you- when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice- you may know that your society is doomed.“
We see today the outworking of this in the case of the ongoing financial scandals in the US and elsewhere (Iceland, Greece, Ireland…), where large private investment bets are paid out in full, backstopped by the taxpayer.
We see moral hazard: risk has been offloaded to those least able to afford it. People who took the risk are not willing to realise, or are sheltered from realising, the consequences of that risk. There is so much wrong here it would take many essays, books even, to document.
The people of Iceland have said no to paying the debts of private banks with public money and the world has not ended. Are the people of Ireland also about to say no? Austerity seems to now mean the taxpayer pays so that those that took the risk do not have to.
On the subject of Money
“Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money , for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist…Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims.”
Today we have throughout the world paper fiat currencies backed by nothing. Debt is now paid simply by ‘printing’ more out of thin air – the Quantative Easing programmes of central banks around the world. ‘Printing’ was put in quotes as today printing is done simply with a computer keyboard, adding the appropriate number of zeros to an entry somewhere in a computer database.
The account these ‘looters’ draw on is the debasement of the currency, by that insidious process of inflation.
Inflation is a stealth tax on savers and pensioners applied by creating currency in ever-increasing amounts through government deficit spending – the unearned income of ever increasing debt. Inflation is not rising prices but the falling in the value of money.
Guilt – the weapon used against you.
Ayn Rand identifies the weapon used against you to great effect. It is an insidious tool of manipulation. That weapon is your decency and sense of fair play, it is your guilt. By making you feel guilty about any topic, it disarms you from an effective response. You are made to feel a bad person – the games used here are very cynical. Political Correctness is such a tool, one word accusations which instantly apportion guilt, making you defenceless, innocence denied. You know those words, they enable the manipulator to win the argument without having one. By making you guilty up front you have lost position, do not allow these contemptible frauds to win. Ayn Rand warns of this in the book:
“We are on strike, we, the men of the mind.
We are on strike against self-immolation. We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties. We are on strike against the dogma that the pursuit of one’s happiness is evil. We are on strike against the doctrine that life is guilt.“
“Guilt is a rope that wears thin.”
“The worst guilt is to accept an unearned guilt”
“To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason.”
This book should be mandatory in all schools for study. It teaches you how to think, not that I agree with everything, as I did note a certain self-centred sterility which would not work in a family setting. The book exposes well the cynical manipulation by others who try to exploit one’s good nature against yourself.
A comment on the Justice system
“When one acts on pity against justice, it is the good whom one punishes for the sake of the evil; when one saves the guilty from suffering, it is the innocent whom one forces to suffer. There is no escape from justice, nothing can be unearned and unpaid for in the universe, neither in matter nor in spirit—and if the guilty do not pay, then the innocent have to pay it.”
Finally, what we see today can be summed up with this following quote which preceded Atlas Shrugged and was written during the Great depression by Adrian Rogers (1931):
“You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half get the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is the beginning of the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”
One question may be, “Will the film be true to the book?” However the question may be, “Will Ayn Rand’s insights come over in the film or will it just be an excuse to defame capitalism with a straw-man cartoon of crony capitalism?”
What should be portrayed in the film is the ultimate bankruptcy of Marxism/socialism and the Robin Hood class of a self enriching elite, always claiming to act for the benefit and in the name of the people they ultimately oppress. In the book the society decays and collapses because those in control do not create any wealth but conspire to appropriate and consume the wealth created by others, wrapping it up of course in the obligatory self-justifying but bankrupt cause.
George Orwell’s sage words are ever more applicable today: “In the time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act!”