Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ignorance and Illumination: Going Galt

Apparently Obama's announcement of a 4.9% tax increase for those earning more than $250000 (and 3% increase for those making more than $200000) has people making claims that he is a socialist or, alternately, a fascist. You'd think that people would have difficulty combining the two, given that their respective positions on the political spectrum, but some people manage the feat.

Regardless, this has some people talking about "going Galt". For those of you unfamiliar with Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a quick synopsis:

Atlas Shrugged centres around Dagny Taggart, Hank Reardon, and the titular John Galt. The novel is set in a sort of idealistic dystopia (as contradictory as that sounds) populated by two (maybe three) types of people. Producers, like Reardon and Taggart. Looters/moochers - those who either demand things from the producers or appeal to their sense of pity. And the third category are those who have the right ideals, but aren't themselves producers. At best, they are assistant producers - Eddie Willers, Dagny's assistant, for example - a man who does his job, but isn't a visionary.

At any rate, the moochers/looters wind up in control of the government, systematically punishing the producers because they hate them, and yet depend on them. Psychologically speaking, it tells us a lot about Ms. Rand's mind - she emigrated from Soviet Russia, and therefore had a certain amount of vitriol for "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". The titular character, fed up with the looters/moochers' activities, establishes an enclave in the Colorado Rockies, and entices other producers to stop "empowering" the parasites, and join him there. With this handful of industry giants removed from the scene, society collapses.

Cheery, eh? Well, this is the hero that people (predominately right-wingers) supposedly wish to emulate. However, the manner in which they do it would be enough to make Ms. Rand cringe...

The meme really got its start from a post by Dr. Helen Smith. Now, the post itself is rubbish - "rewarding those who overspend, underwork, or are just plain unproductive" indeed! - but the real proof of the pudding (sewage pudding with arsenic frosting, in case you were wondering) were the comments this post engendered. It was a veritable Baskin Robin's of wignuttery - every flavour showed up:
  • The very first comment suggested refusing to live up to a contract (anathema for Rand's characters), abuse of a system designed to help ailing family members, and communes. If anything is likely to make Rand turn in her grave, it's people proposing communes in her name!

  • Here in Tenneessee we not only have the Caney Fork and the Little River in which to fly fish but we also make our own cars. Lots of them.
    It does my heart some good as a southerner to know that this time it is the South that is on the productive and responsible side of the issue.
    This gentleman seems to forget what industry was asking, even then, for a fairly colossal bailout, because it wasn't economical...

  • Minimalism. Work all you want. Make all the money you want but spend as little as possible. Put your cash in a safety deposit box so it's yours but the bank and the rest of the financial system can't count is as an asset and use it to make loans, etc.
    This gentleman has a bit more of a Galtish feel to him, but doesn't seem to get that this only helps the US by increasing the value of the currency, increasing the worth of the money the US does collect in taxes. That said, I am all for this technique. I wish the government did it.

  • Anyone who stands against replacing public education with a private educational system or home schooling (and immediate reduction in school based taxes at all levels) should be voted out.
    And here we sample a different flavour of wingnuts - the home-schooling nuts. The idea of "home skooling iz bettar!" is so ridiculous it deserves a post all its own - but to summarize: there's something that manifested in the twentieth century private sector more than any period before it - specialization. While I'm fairly certain I could repair a cart and keep a horse fed and healthy in addition to my other skills, I wouldn't have the first idea of how to repair a hybrid automobile. While my math and computer science skills are fairly well-developed, I know virtually nothing of electrical engineering. I'm sorry, but unless you are in the top 0.5% of the population, there's no way you can teach your child every subject to the same depth they would receive in a classroom. I'll stop here before I really get into it... this will definitely be a later post, however. the stupid, it burns!

  • In business I can lower my salary and either leave it in the business or pay it out in dividends (no FICA taxes). Buy gold instead of stocks and CDs. Drop all subscriptions to MSM. Buy antiques, used guns, etc. instead of new products.
    Once again, we have the stupid people who don't seem to get the concept of a marginal tax rate. If you want to reduce your income out of spite, to deny the government taxation on your earnings... well, that's your prerogative, and good for you for sticking to your guns, I suppose. But diminishing returns?

  • The final straw was the last debate, when the One proclaimed that health care is a "right". Screw him and his minions. Let them try to provide this "right" to the masses, when those who produce it by their labor and intellect refuse to do so.
    And herein we see the benefit inherent in a socialized healthcare system - no idiots like this who commoditize health care. No pay, you die, is that it?

  • I went to dinner recently with a client. He works his butt off. She has never worked and never will work, because she is far, far better than her husband or me. I got the drift.
    And why on earth are these house-pigs praised while the working men are slammed in society?
    Strangely, all the right-wing debates usually feature at least one comment of this nature. Odd, isn't it?

  • Hold your breath, or you may be breaking the law. Any scientist knows that CO2 is not pollution, nor can it be classified as a pollutant. One more reason to vote against Obama
    This stuff too.

And on, and on, and on.

Let's make things simple, folks. Here's how you "Go Galt". First, you have to truly be a producer. One poster suggested that lawyers were producers. I think Ms. Rand would probably disagree with you. Doctors also seem to get short shrift in her novel. In fact, the only people who get respect are the industrialists - the ones who manufacture things or facilitate their manufacture, and get joy out of so doing. So if you work just to pay the mortgage - you never were a Galt, so don't pretend otherwise.

Second, you have to be willing to withdraw your services from society altogether. This may mean working as a fry cook, it may mean living on a self-sufficient farm - but whatever your choice, you cannot contribute to society in a productive manner. You cannot, however, become a moocher or looter yourself; that would run entirely contrary to Objectivism. You cannot join a commune, either. Ideally, you would join a community with its own currency, or which trades by barter.

But the fact of the matter is, even those of the would-be Galters who aren't moochers or looters themselves still aren't Galts. At best, they are Willers. They get their jobs done, but were they to vanish, there would always be others to fill their shoes.

Finally - when Ms. Rand wrote her book, the marginal tax rate on the highest tax bracket was 91%. 39%? Dagny Taggart would laugh at you and tell you to grow a pair.

No comments:

Post a Comment