August 5, 2012
Where is John Galt?By Gene Schwimmer
"Who is John Galt?"
That question, of course, is the opening sentence of Ayn Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, arguably the first major novel written with a sledgehammer and the first (but, thankfully, not last) to drive generations of liberals crazy and in the most delicious and poetically justified way: by simply depicting a society in which liberals get everything they want.
After 55 years and total sales of well over half a billion, I hope I can be forgiven if I "give away the shock ending" by explaining to those who have not read the book who John Galt, in fact, is.
John Galt is the prime mover behind the major events in Atlas Shrugged. Specifically, he is an engineer who invents a miraculous new type of motor for his employer, the fictional Twentieth Century (I suppose one could read "General") Motors. Forced by his employer, for the "social good," to share his royalties with his fellow workers, none of whom contributed a thing to the motor's development, Galt walks out of his job, determined to "stop the motor of the world." This he does by convincing the world's major industrialists -- the "top one percent," if you will -- to destroy their businesses, stop inventing, stop creating, and withdraw from society, denying society the benefits of their genius, creativity, and productivity. Interestingly (but not surprisingly), one of the most effective ways to destroy a business is to turn it over to liberals. Anyway, deprived of the "top one percent's" talent and genius -- and with liberals firmly in control -- more and more technology and infrastructure break down until modern civilization collapses entirely.
Then, as now, reviews from the liberal intelligentsia were, how you say, unfavorable. Gore Vidal described Atlas Shrugged as "nearly perfect in its immorality." The New York Times opined that the book was "written out of hate."
But one thing none of Atlas Shrugged's critics has ever said is that what happens to civilization in Atlas Shrugs -- i.e., the total collapse of modern civilization -- would not, in fact, happen in the real world were the businessmen, the innovators, the creators actually to destroy or simply abandon their businesses, withdraw from society, and withhold from society their genius, talent, and creativity.
The reason why no one challenges the basic premise underlying Atlas Shrugged is because no one can. The impact on the modern life if the computer-makers stopped making computers, if every car-manufacturer stopped building cars, if doctors and nurses stopped caring for the sick, and so on is so obvious that it is hard to see how any person seriously could dispute it. So instead of refuting Atlas Shrug's premise, liberals mollify themselves with the comforting delusion that events like the ones depicted in Atlas Shrugged remain, and will always remain, within the realm of fiction: it can't happen here.
Well, I say it can. More than that, I believe that if we don't change course, and soon -- if we continue to allow liberals to enact their agenda -- it will. Take, for example, health care. The New York Times article I linked to above mentions that more and more doctors are declining to treat Medicare recipients. Well, I can go that one better: my own internist takes no insurance at all. So perhaps now, three years after Democrats drank the Obama-Reid-Pelosi Kool-Aid and "passed the bill so that we can learn what's in it," someone can tell me where in the Affordable Care Act's 2,700 pages it tells me how "universal health insurance" will make it easier for me to get treated by doctors who don't accept insurance.
Nor does it stop there. Medical device-makers, fed up with the FDA's bureaucracy and red tape, are starting to move their operations, and jobs, overseas. No doubt, the medical device manufactures can hardly wait for the ObamaCare medical device tax to kick in next year. After all, what better way to offset the regulations prompting businesses to leave the country than by piling on a tax?
At least, that is what one would think if one is a liberal Democrat. But for the rest of us, such as the majority of small businesses, who are not hiring, it would seem that we have passed the point where we would need to ask, "Who is John Galt?" Now, in these times, under this administration, with the Democrats controlling the White House and Senate, the right question to ask is, "Who needs John Galt?" What did John Galt convince Atlas Shrugged's fictional businessmen and industrialists to do that their real-life counterparts are not slowly, but inexorably, beginning to do voluntarily, without the need of a John Galt to talk them into it?
But would it not be wonderful, would it not be to society's great benefit if there were a real John Galt? Not the one in Atlas Shrugged, mind you. Not the John Galt who abandons society, works surreptitiously to destroy it, and then delivers an ultimatum when that destruction is nearly complete. My John Galt would "recruit" the movers and shakers, the innovators and creators, and, authorized by them to speak for them, would give us fair warning today, before the damage is done, while there is still time to change course. My John Galt would tell us not what he and his ilk would do to us, but what we are doing to ourselves with the ever-increasing burden of regulations and taxes that we impose on the most creative and productive among us, making it increasingly difficult and ultimately impossible for them to create and produce the goods and services -- and above all, jobs -- on which our modern civilization depends.
That's my question. Not who is John Galt, but where is John Galt?