Atlas Shrugonomics

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The Strike Productions

We all feel unappreciated sometimes. It was the particular genius of überlibertarian author Ayn Rand to turn those hurt feelings into a political movement of sorts, at least in the fictional world of her massive novel Atlas Shrugged, in which a group of industrialists inspired by the mysterious John Galt decide to go on strike because neither the government nor their fellow citizens truly appreciate all they do for the world.

If this basic idea seems a bit familiar, that may be because Atlas Shrugged is having a bit of a revival right now. Tonight, the second installment of a projected film trilogy of Atlas Shrugged hits theaters.

The first installment, out last year, didn’t exactly set the world on fire; it was panned by critics (and even some Ayn Rand fans) as tedious and talky and just plain awful all around. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that the “low-budget, no-talent treatment” of Rand’s novel  “sits there flapping on screen like a bludgeoned seal.” Having seen the film myself, I can only say that this description makes it sound a lot more lively than it really is. The film fared no better in the marketplace than it did with critics, earning back only a fraction of its less-than-extravagant budget.

(MORE: Attention Employers: Don’t Sleep on Workers’ Insomnia)

But the producers have reason to hope that Atlas mach two, in which the strike of the capitalists gets under way, will fare a bit better. Not necessarily because Part II will be any better than Part I — weirdly, the entire cast has been replaced, apparently because of budgetary and scheduling constraints, which doesn’t seem to bode well — but because the central ideas of Rand’s book have been seeping back into political discourse this election season.

Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan is a Rand fan, and Mitt Romney’s infamous comments about the allegedly irresponsible 47-percenters seem to reflect a worldview similar to that of the enigmatic Mr. Galt. Romney’s remarks weren’t meant for public consumption, but a broad debate on America’s so-called makers and takers has been percolating on the right for months, and his gaffe helped push this debate into the mainstream.

More than a few of the debaters, at least on the right, seem to subscribe to the central fantasy of Rand’s book: that the success of the economy is due almost entirely to the genius of entrepreneurs and industrialist makers and that too much taxation or regulation could drive them to go on strike, thereby bringing the economy to its knees.

The idea of a capitalist strike is mostly just talk. Just as few liberals ever make good on their promises to move to Canada if so-and-so is ever elected President, vanishingly few makers ever make good on their promises to pack it up and go home.

But this week, one rich fellow informed his employees that he might “go Galt” if Obama is re-elected President. Real estate developer and time-share mogul David Siegel was previously best known as the subject of a documentary called The Queen of Versailles, which chronicled his attempts to build the biggest mansion in the U.S.

(MORE: The New Culture War over Fairness)

Then, on Tuesday, the website Gawker posted a letter Siegel sent to his employees the day before, warning them of terrible consequences that might ensue if Romney doesn’t win the presidency. Channeling Ayn Rand — and cribbing from a similar letter circulated by Randian rich people in 2008 — Siegel promised:

If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone …

While the media wants to tell you to believe the “1 percenters” are bad, I’m telling you they are not. They create most of the jobs. If you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the “1%”; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country.

You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about.

While Siegel dreams of an “I told you so” moment on the beach, others hope to emulate Rand’s capitalist strikers by building their own equivalent of the book’s Galt’s Gulch – a little libertarian utopia of their own, free from onerous taxes and pesky government regulations.

These days, as Quartz reports, libertarian utopians are setting their sights on Honduras. Inspired by the ideas of American economist Paul Romer, who for years has urged developing countries to give small chunks of their territories over to autonomous “charter cities,” the Honduran government last year agreed to set up Romer-esque Special Development Regions. In September, the government signed an agreement with a consortium headed by an American libertarian named Michael Strong, who hopes to carve out a space in an undeveloped area of the country to build what he hopes will be an “anarcho-capitalist paradise.” Human-rights organizations, meanwhile, worry that Strong’s paradise could turn into a haven for exploitation, and Romer himself has turned his back on the project. As always, one person’s utopia can be another’s nightmare.

Meanwhile, a Silicon Valley start-up called Blueseed is promoting a less utopian but similarly fantastical plan to escape the long arm of the law: immigration laws that keep foreign entrepreneurs out of the U.S. Blueseed’s workaround? Offer these entrepreneurs a place to live and work on a ship docked in international waters off the coast of San Francisco, allowing them relatively easy access to Silicon Valley talent (and venture capital) without the need for a visa.

Whatever happens with these projects, it’s likely to be a lot more interesting than Atlas Shrugged, Parts II and III.

99 comments
Florence66
Florence66

Futrelle is a self-loathing mangina.

Suresh Ram
Suresh Ram

Futrelle has understood nothing about Atlas Shrugged. He has apparently read it in parts, read some of the biased comments  and then come up with his own bit of nonsense about Rand's monumental work. Atlas is not a book on politics; rather it is a philosophical work, dramatized in the form of a novel where the political aspects are extensions and consequences of certain philosophical ideas, mainly reason and rational individualism against its opposites. As for the his snide comments on entepreneurs and industrialist markers (sic) less said the better. Futrelle in fact seems to be having fantasies and utopian visions of taxation and regulation as drives of innovation and economic growth. And what is all that drivel about turning hurt feelings into a political movement of sorts?

Paul
Paul

Judging from all the BS that's spouting from the Repubs, I believed Atlas has farted.

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

Mr. Jefferson was also free to bang his slaves.  Turns out Sally Hemmings mother was doing it with Jefferson's father which means Sally Hemmings was probably Jefferson's half sister.  Wow talk about sick.   Sorry to burst your bubble. 

Goldenah
Goldenah

North Korea is the perfect example of liberal utopia. It's all government control with little or no private enterprise. Why don't all the mocking, snarking, snickering takers move there if they believe that not having capitalism and business people mean nothing to a thriving economy, which provides a healthy country with a decent standard of living?

It's frightening how stupid the well educated useless "media elite" in this country have become.

TheGlobalizer
TheGlobalizer

Typical reductio ad absurdum.

It is unlikely that events will warrant a full "shrug" - the reality is that the rich and talented are highly mobile, even internationally. Look, for example, at how many European golfers establish their residency in the UAE, or how many corporations use tax-advantaged legal entities in tax haven states in the Carribean.

We always shrug. The question is how much you want us to, and what you're willing to do to avoid it.

ShifoBrains
ShifoBrains

who will produce anything when over 1/2 are takers?  taxing at severely high rates destroys incentives to build

"Fairness" and equalization of outcomes results in laws like the "dog eat dog act". equal opportunity and personal responsibility are the cornerstones of a society based on merit

rhcrest
rhcrest

There are many small business owners who are just biding their time until the election. If Obama gets reelected, they will either close up shop or downsize and then the employees will cry. All this Marxist talk about the 1%'ers is just that - classic Marxist warfare garbage. All the envious people see is the result of a lot of hard work and blood sweat and tears. They don't see what that person had to go through to get that successful business and all the other people who failed along the way and didn't have success. These envious people would never make the sacrifice that these people made. They just see something that someone else has and decide that it is unfair and that they are entitledd to what that person worked for. So you can all cry when the massive layoffs come if Obama is reeleced and it will serve you right. Newslfash to the ignorant - there IS no middle class under Marxism. Just the elite and then the rest of the people who share equally in misery

Paul
Paul

you lost me when you quoted a review by Rolling Stone.   of course Rolling Stone will say negative things about anything conservative.  it's a flaming left wing rag.

Strac5
Strac5

"We all feel unappreciated sometimes. It was the particular genius of überlibertarian author Ayn Rand to turn those hurt feelings into a political movement of sorts..."

What? What is this nonsense? Why are you lefties always projecting your own defective mentality and insecure psychology onto other people? Did you not read the novel? It has nothing to do with "appreciation" or being liked or loved or whatever by other people. It's not about other people, period. Get it? It is about freedom, and especially the freedom to create! If you don't get that Ayn Rand's philosophy is not a social-centric philosophy, maybe you should read The Fountainhead so that you can understand the mentality and psychology of your opponents better.

Packard Day
Packard Day

Age: 56/Investment net worth: seven numbers/Household income: top 10%/Owner:  Small LLC

I am only one person and write only for myself. Nevertheless, these past five  years have found me spending more and more of my time devising strategies to efficiently deal with the increasing costs of my government's expanding policies, laws, and regulations. At the same time, I have spent less and less time focused on productivity or other profit making issues related to my business.

Call it a strike. Call it whatever you like. Good luck kids with your "free Obamaphones" and having unfettered access to your "Obama stash." I am sure it is all going to work out for everyone in the end.

TANSTAAFL

TheAntiProgressive
TheAntiProgressive

Yeah and why not?  Why invest here, build here if the moochers simply come in and demand a fair share of something they had nothing to do with.

Alan Guillaudeu
Alan Guillaudeu

Actually, capitalism has gone "gault".  Capitalism has gone on strike.  Businesses are not hiring.  Businesses are holding huge amounts of cash.  Businesses are hunkering down and not taking risks.  Businesses are moving out of the collapsing liberal states of California and Illinois.  Capitalism is going "gault".  You just refuse to see the reality in front of your eyes.

Suresh Ram
Suresh Ram

Yes. Also much of the 'academic elite' I guess.

Suresh Ram
Suresh Ram

The point is, all this is so much wasted cost and effort. There would have been no need for it if the liberals-statists-leftists had not pushed their agenda for control.

Suresh Ram
Suresh Ram

Then 'they' will say capitalism and freedom have failed, it is time for bigger government, to save the' poor' from the 'predatory rich'.  Compounding problems upon problems upon problems. Like the response to the 'financial crisis '. When will this farce end?

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

Where is is written (except the US tax code) that capital gains should be taxed at 15%?  Why are the rich favored in this way?  Why not take Capital Gains as ordinary income?  It's only this way because rich people have access to lobbyists to write the law in a manner that suits them.   

Suresh Ram
Suresh Ram

Yes, of course. No doubt about THAT.

Suresh Ram
Suresh Ram

Well put. The lefties suffer from deepseated psychological problems. So whenever anyone puts the flashlight on them, they are reduced to whimpering and whining. It does'nt look like  they will 'get' Rand's philosophy anytime soon. For them, creativity, achievement, excellence, pride in one's work- these are all 'fantasies'. Obviously their whole mediocre lives are devoted to pulling down anyone who rises above this lowest ccommon denominator. And when anyone disagrees with them, they yell: greedy, elitist, uncaring, whatever. All of this cheered by many worthies in the academia and media.

ranger99
ranger99

So, essentially what you are saying is that instead of paying your fair share like a real businessman, you are complaining that you are being forced to spend too much time trying to weasel out of your obligations to your country and your fellow citizens?   And you somehow expect sympathy for this?

Corporate profits are at an all-time high.  Interest rates are at an all-time low.  Taxes are at their lowest rates in several generations....and you have the nerve to say that you are overburdened? 

Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps you are just a terrible businessman if you can't survive on a level-playing field? If you can't treat your employees fairly AND make a profit, you don't deserve to be in business at all.

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

I enjoyed a glass of Kool-aid today.  Thankfully the price is kept artificially low by subsidies to the sugar industry from the federal government.

Joseph
Joseph

Bullshit. Unfettered fantastical bullshit.

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

I filled up my car today.  Thankfully the price is kept artificially low by tax rebates to the oil companies. 

advancedatheist
advancedatheist

That aspect of Rand's message really bothers progressives because they know that strikes of "the men of the mind" have happened repeatedly throughout history, and they reveal a fundamental weakness in progressive statism: Productive people with the means and the ability often fire abusive governments and hire ones which offer to treat them better simply by migrating there. For example, many of China's new millionaires reportedly plan to seek citizenship in other countries and move their fortunes out of China because they don't trust the still communist Chinese government, which under a change of policy could decide to confiscate their wealth. I doubt they got this idea from reading a Chinese translation of Atlas Shrugged, but rather from seeing the logic of their situation. 

rhcrest
rhcrest

 Yes and they are the ones who are always accusing the conservatives of wanting control when it is the other way around! Conservatives just want to live their lives, work hard, take care of their families and mind their own business. They don't want to tell other people how much soda and popcorn to have at the movies or at a restaurant for example like Bloomberg is doing in NYC.

rhcrest
rhcrest

You would still have your social security and your medicare with the fair tax. I wasn't talking about taking that away. I was talking about not paying an income tax and in my last post i talked about the fair tax which would not affect your ss and medicare. And wealth is not taken from the many to give to the few. Here we go again. Wealth is not a finite pie with a fixed number of pieces. Wealth is created through hard work and sacrifice. This doesn't take anything away from anyone else. You get wealthy when you provide a service or product to others that they value. You are not taking advantage of them. Do you feel like you're being taken advantage of when you shop at Walmart? I sure don't. I feel like i am getting a good value for my money. But yet the Walton family that owns walmart is rich. The walton family didn't get rick by taking money from their customers for nothing. They got rich by giving their customers a good value. You've got marxism in your head granny. Honestly. In all seriousness you should read up about Stalin and Lenin and Mao Tse Tung. These people were communists and that is what Obama always talks about but in a way that people don't realize. Obama was mentored by communist mentors - card carrying members of the communist party. Stalin and Mao came to power spouting the same class warfare rhetoric that Obama is and those people killed at a minimum 150 million people! Yes the rich are poorer in communist societies but so isn't everyone else. You wouldn't even have ss and medicare under communism. Under Mao and Stalin, if you can't work and produce for the community, you were shot because you were considered useless.  Communism is a culture of death. They were also big into euthanasia for elderly and handicapped people - the people that can't produce. I guess if they wanted to be nice to you they would kill you some other way beside being shot. Ever hear of Obama's death panels? They are real and that is Obama's version of doing the same thing to old people and handicapped people and really sick people - the people that can't work for the community -that Stalin and Mao did. All these people on welfare, they are being used as pawns by Obama to collapse our financial system. He is bringing more and more on as dependent on the system until the system collapses which is his goal. Once the system collapses they aren't going to get free stuff anymore. That doesn't exist under communism. You either work or you are eliminated. Everyone is being duped by this man. Please read about marxism/communism.

rhcrest
rhcrest

 I just read the rest of your argument and we agree on something finally. I think the fair tax is the way to go. Everyone would have to pay including illegals and this would be fair. And yes you would have a choice to consume or not and the rich would naturally pay more because they consume more. And April 15 would be just another spring day. It's none of the govts business how much money you make.

rhcrest
rhcrest

Negative. The sixteenth amendment was never properly ratified by all the states. The 16th amendment is a defacto amendment.The Founding Fathers only allowed indirect taxes such as excise and sales tax, not tax on labor which they found abhorrent.  Hey granny, tell me since you are so in love with income taxes, do you pay more than you owe voluntarily or is that just for "other people"?

rhcrest
rhcrest

 So you're solution is for people to work less and beneath their abilities so that they are taxed less. Congratulaions Ozarkgranny you have just defined socialism/communism! That is exactly why they don't work. If you know what you work so hard for is going to be confiscated, then you really don't feel like working that hard do you? And that is why communism has killed at least 150 million people throughout history. There wasn't enough food grown because farmers had no incentive to grow more food than the bare minimum so millions starved to death. Others who were dissidents were just shot.  Wow you lefties really have some warped view of the world. If everyone thought like you did, then guess what, you wouldn't even have a computer to type your illogical nonsense on because those computer types like Steve Jobs would have said, why bother?

rhcrest
rhcrest

zarkgranny, why is the CEO the CEO in the first place? Do you think

someone gets to be the CEO by watching the clock and quitting work at 5

on the dot? Hardly. These people work like crazy. They are working with

their minds instead of their hands but they produce just as the farmers

produced. It's just that the product is different. Your argument is

false

rhcrest
rhcrest

Where is it written that income should be taxed at all except the US tax code?

Certainly not the Constitution. According to the C, only indirect taxes are

permissible, such as excise and sales tax. It was abhorrent to the Founding

Fathers that people's earnings should be taxed because you are literally taking

a part of that person away. That person worked for that money and in the case of

capital gains, they risked that money , and you are taking the time and effort

that went into making that money. You are literally stealing time away that that

person will never ever get back. There should be a fair tax in this country

that everyone pays, poor, rich, illegal aliens, tourists and the income tax

should be eliminated. April 15 should be just another spring day and it's none

of the gov'ts business how much money people make. Please see fairtax.org for

further info if you are interested

rhcrest
rhcrest

 I guess i am insane too because i think taxes are an enslavement. When someone works and you forcibly take a portion of their wages away, what else do you call that? Isn't that what they did to the slaves? Those people worked but the slaveowners got to keep the fruits of their labor - they let the slaves have some i guess but most of it was taken away. What's the difference and how does understanding this qualify as insanity?

Strac5
Strac5

How DARE you talk to a producing, taxpaying citizen like that! The restrictions on businessmen are irrational and immoral! Nice moral equivalence there, but there is no such thing as an obligation to be parasitized and enslaved. He isn't the one trying to chain people with taxes and regulations - others like yourself are the ones trying to chain HIM. YOU are the "weasel" trying to squeeze the lifeblood out of others, not vice versa. You neither understand nor care about what businesmen in the private sector do or the impossibility of the burden that has been placed on them, so drop the vacuous moral pretensions about fairness, you envious little Marxist brat.

Karim
Karim

NO, let me spell it out for you (since you didn't seem to understand my point the first time).

REGARDLESS of your conspiracy theories as to how my tax dollars are spent, what gives you the right to take it in the first place? Isn't that your whole "capitalism sucks" thing?

Do you really feel that anyone should be entitled to someone else's hard earned money? (Like I said, rich or poor, it's irrelevant; stealing should be illegal EITHER WAY.) In my opinion, forcing me to pay for other peoples' livelihoods is a form of thievery, even if it's considered legal by most of the world's governments.

Was that made clear enough to you? The entitled, whether rich or poor, should not be given money on the basis of their wealth, or lack thereof.

If you truly were so destitute that you couldn't live your life without thinking about your next meal then I wouldn't have to think twice about helping you out. BUT, seeing as how you have a laptop, and apparently enough time on your hands to use it to debate about the ills of capitalism, I'd say your just a self-entitled person with too much time on their hands.

Karim
Karim

As long as it benefits you it's great! Doesn't matter if these policies irrevocably harm others. Why? Because they are rich of course!

That pretty much sums up the way you idiots see things.

Karim
Karim

Because it's all about you and the benefits you get, right?

Of course your ideology permits you to steal from others as long as it benefits you in some way.

And what's your excuse? "Oh they're rich, they can handle it" sums up the modern liberal ideology. You don't even bother with a 'thank you' or 'please' before stealing our money.

Pathetic.

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

Let's see where are those Chinese millionaires moving to?  Oh.  The USA or that other socialist country Canada.  If you are looking for economic liberty and the opportunity to do business without environmental and worker safety regulations please move to China.  

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

You're right.  Take my social security and Medicare.  Without them I won't be long for this world.  You can then keep your taxes and live in peace.  Please put this on my epitaph "We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxury to the few."  Martin Luther King, Jr. 

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

I haven't had a chance to read Ayn Rand's work of FICTION, and honestly I don't know why I would bother.  If rich people feel unappreciated, they could stop being rich people.  I'm not getting the sense that Warren Buffet or Bill Gates are feeling under appreciated.   If the CEO feels like she is being overtaxed, she could change jobs.  No one is making her be an under appreciated CEO.  I think it's called free will.   She could run for congress like Carly Fiorina or Linda McMahon.  That will simultaneously lower her tax bracket and show her what it really feels like to be unappreciated.    I mean it's not like she is the only person in the whole world who can run that company.  I'm sure that many VPs in her company can't wait to have her leave.

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

It actually is in the constitution, the Sixteenth Amendment (Amendment XVI) to the United States Constitution allows the Congress to levy an income tax without apportioning it among the states or basing it on Census results. This amendment exempted income taxes from the constitutional requirements regarding direct taxes.   So I went to fairtax.org and I hate to say it, I agree!  I would gladly trade the income tax for a value added tax.   In the end, I suspect most people would pay the same in taxes, but I guess you have a choice.  You don't have to consume.

rhcrest
rhcrest

 ozarkgranny, why is the CEO the CEO in the first place? Do you think someone gets to be the CEO by watching the clock and quitting work at 5 on the dot? Hardly. These people work like crazy. They are working with their minds instead of their hands but they produce just as the farmers produced. It's just that the product is different. Your argument is false

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

And another thing … When the founding fathers were around,

most people worked for themselves on a farm with at most a few employees (or

slaves).  So it’s not a stretch to

imagine that taxing one’s income is a theft of their labor.  However, when CEO sits on the 32nd

floor managing the enterprise of 1000s of people and getting rich off their

labor, taking a share of her million dollar income is hardly a theft of her

labor.   

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

It's written in the 16th amendment to the Constitution The "Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."  It was passed by both houses of Congress and 42 states.  Interestingly, the first income tax was a 2% tax on Corporate income.   Personally, I'd gladly do away with the income tax in favor of the value added tax.  I'll look at fairtax.org, but there is NOTHING fair about a flat tax.  A person making a million should pay more then a person making $50,000. If you tax 15% from the person making $50,000 you are taking food off their table.  If you take 15% from a millionaire, nothing much is different.  

ranger99
ranger99

My my my......struck a nerve, did I?  Since you obviously don't realize, I pay taxes too, and plenty of them.  Only I don't have the benefit of an army of accountants and off-shore tax havens to shield my income.

If you genuinely think paying taxes is "enslavement", than you are truly a crazy person.  I don't mean that in a euphemistic sense...I mean you are literally, clinically insane.

Just what is this "impossible burden" you speak of?  People go into business to make money, and by this person's own admission they make PLENTY of it.  To ask someone to pay their fair share of taxes (which, as I stated previously are at RECORD lows) is the price we pay to live in an orderly society.

To speak of "chaining" someone is simply absurd.  It's easier to start a business in the United States than anywhere in the world.  Businesses are showered with tax-breaks and preferential treatment that the average citizen could never dream of having.

I am not "envious" nor am I lazy or uninformed.  I've been working full time since I was fourteen years old and I've never once complained about paying MY share of taxes.

You are simply arrogant and simple-minded.  I pity your obliviousness.  If you don't want to pay any taxes, move to Somalia.  There you won't be so dreadfully burdened by the tyranny of government. 

davidrsmithdvm
davidrsmithdvm

Dear  Karim

     I am not getting any  free handouts.  I paid into SS for 50 years with the expectation it would pay back a partial retirement  amount while I saved the rest.  I have several; annuities that do the same and I don't hear them grousing about  paying what they contracted.

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

Karim,  Let me spell it out for you.  The government takes your money in the form of taxes and gives it to other rich people like the sugar industry, the farm industry, fox news and the oil industry in the form of subsidies and favorable tax laws.  If you are mad at a little ole Granny for taking a few of your pennies, you should be really mad at other rich people taking billions from you and your rich friends.  

Karim
Karim

In short, you feel entitled to my money simply because you're poor? I feel bad for you, I truly do, but asking for assistance would do you better than simply taking.

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

Karim,

No need to go postal, I just thought it might have escaped your notice, while you were busy counting your money, that the government takes from the rich and gives to the rich, bypassing the poor like me.  

Suresh Swamy
Suresh Swamy

 Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela - these are some of the fit places for liberal-statists. Let the proud admirers of the collectivist-statist Rohin Hood philosophy peddle their stale wares in such places.

Karim
Karim

Your implication that the United States or Canada are more "socialist" than China is beyond stupid.

Chinese millionaires are moving to Northern America because of the low tax rates and the world-renowned protection of property rights amp; capital; NOT because there is more regulation.

To say that is beyond stupid; It's liberal stupid.