I’m sure those in the older generation know about the 1957 novel by Ayn Rand** entitled Atlas Shrugged. I have seen it referenced a time or two. From what I understand, it is a timely book—in that the debacle that is unfolding this very moment in Washington is apparently quite similar to Rand’s plot, in a sad, farcical way. Read an excellent full analysis by Stephen Moore in the Wall Street Journal here (hat tip, Larry.) I have taken the liberty of excerpting some of it:
Many of us who know Rand’s work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that “Atlas Shrugged” parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.
For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises — that in most cases they themselves created — by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.
The current economic strategy is right out of “Atlas Shrugged”: The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That’s the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies — while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to “calm the markets,” another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as “Atlas” grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate “windfalls.”
David Kelley, the president of the Atlas Society, which is dedicated to promoting Rand’s ideas, explains that “the older the book gets, the more timely its message.” He tells me that there are plans to make “Atlas Shrugged” into a major motion picture — it is the only classic novel of recent decades that was never made into a movie. “We don’t need to make a movie out of the book,” Mr. Kelley jokes. “We are living it right now.”
I think I need some Pepto-Bismol.
**I’m aware that Rand had some purportedly flavorful views. This post does not represent in any way, shape or form agreement with any or all of her philosophies. I write this post out of curiosity about this particular novel and its apparent relevancy in light of our current economic ills, and that’s it.