Democrats & Liberals Archives

Forget Galt. Who in Their Right Mind Thinks They're Atlas?

Before you go Galt, consider who and what Galt’s creator admired. Then wonder why this should be the next big idea in American politics.

Going Galt: more or less the idea of emulating the character John Galt in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, who led all the smart, handsome, productive creative, brilliant people to leave their high paying jobs and go flip burgers and do other forms of manual labor, with the idea that they are so indispensable, that the sky will fall on society without their help.

But is anybody truly that indispensable, and the rest of us truly so stupid that we could not learn to take their place, if the need be?

The model of sociopath is a tempting one. You've got a guy prepared to win at any costs, who screws all his enemies, destroys them utterly, who doesn't show one bit of restraint. They're reckless, arrogant, cocky, glib, charming, all things modern society idolizes in heroes. For people often stuck in their role in life, they're wonderful for the vicarious wish fulfillment they provide.

But there's another side. They have no real sense of risk or obligation, and their charm and seat of their pants style of leadership lead people to fail to question them long before it might have been healthy to. They have no conscience to lead them to feel obligated to take care of their responsiblities. They do just enough to avoid being exposed. As entertaining as it might be to watch one glibly manipulate others around him or her, you don't want to be in their cross-hairs.

The unfortunate fact is that there are often people like this in business and in the world at large. And often times, their lack of conscience and empathy are contagious, especially when people feel entitled to something, or burn with a thirst to tip the scales back in their own direction.

What's not always really addressed in the popular media, concerning these people, is what losers they ultimately are. Their callousness puts a distance between them and others. They take risks others would wisely be avoiding, because they simply don't care about right and wrong. They often destroy the very success they've built, pull down the businesses and governments they led, the reputations they had.

Many political movements in America have died or been outcast to the wilderness for being so wrapped up in their political fortunes that they did and said things that would ultimately pull them under. They took the notion that they simply had to roll over people where ever they could, and the rightness of their cause meant the ends would justify the means employed. The thing is, though, you can't get yourself so callous as to use those means, that your rivalries overwhelm your judgement.

Some Republicans and Democrats have let this happen to them, and we forget that when the campaigns are over (if we ever LET them be over), we have to live in the same neighborhoods as the people we slimed and disparaged.

So much gets rationalized, to the detriment of the party, the character of the institution. When the aim is to win at all costs, at some point, you win at too high of a cost. 2004 was such a win. Republicans put everything into it. 2006 demonstrates how much this took out of them, as their choice to continue along with Bush bore its bitter fruit.

For me, the most fundamental blunders of the Bush Administrations included all those times where for political reasons they would rationalize a screw-up, and then subsequently fail to take care of the issue at hand. We all feel reluctance to admit to and deal with screw-ups, especially when rivals are watching and casting aspersions, but if we are unwilling to do right in fact, any political victory yielded by the denial will be hollow and short-lived.

A sense of right and wrong is not merely a nice thing for a party, a person, or a country to have, it is a necessary thing. It is what keeps us from stubbornly embarking on a foolish path of action and keeping to it. It's what keeps us from turning the world around us into a hell on Earth. It's what allows us to maintain bonds with others, regardless of whether we agree with them. It's what warns us off of stupid risks and keeps us from getting snarled in compromising positions.

I see a failure in what Geithner and company did with bonuses. It needlessly exposed the administration to ridicule, undermined the apparent power of the administration. But it also ran afoul of a fundamental reason why people elected Barack Obama: because they are sick of a situation where they themselves are at the mercy of the uncaring and callous, and this country itself needs people to pay attention not merely to the equity of the stock market, but to equality of the respect that the rich and poor alike get.

Part of the reason we created this country, oh so long ago, was we wanted to make America a place where there wasn't this systematic callousness rained on the lower classes from above, where you didn't have to live your life at the whim of some persons whose conscience (or at least self-interest) you might not be able to appeal to. We created a nation of laws, where everybody from our greatest leader to our lowest beggar would be accountable to the law, and that law would be something decided, enforced, and interpreted by those whose authority ultimately came to them from those they ruled.

But this is not an arrangement that works well when we create a system of callous disregard to other's needs and happiness, and call that freedom. Some degree of this is within our rights, but at some point, we have to put limits on people's behavior, when the effects become destructive. This isn't collectivism, this is enlightened self-interest. The folks who saw their pensions implode serve that interest when they seek to outlaw the games their funds disappeared into.

We cannot afford to continue, especially in the markets, to let people chase their naked greed on wall Street down endless labyrinths of accounting tricks and derivatives exchange, rather than create useful, productive industry that helps fuel the economy naturally, organically. We've seen the folly in arranging a system so the vast majority of people are employed in the service of the few that remain with their means. We need a system where the wealth isn't subject to disappearance once and for all, when some loose tongue lets a secret slip, or somebody makes a bad bet trading.

We have to be willing to challenge the authority of those who run our country, run our economy, hold them to greater standards than we have been. I know many make the mistake of thinking that I'm in favor of unchecked government, but the truth is, I've always believed in the opposite. That's why I post here, why in fact I post under my own name. Like the character "V" says in the movie V for Vendetta says, people shouldn't be afraid of their government, governments should be afraid of their people.

Nobody up there, not even Barack Obama, is indispensable. Nobody in Government is indispensable. Nobody in business is either. If the brainiacs who ran Wall Street feel slighted enough by Obama's interventions, by the application of social programs and new regulations, and they just feel like they have to prove how indispensable they are by leaving and taking their ball home with them, I would say, be my guest.

Be my guest, every politician and stockbroker, every artist and small business owner, every person who thinks that the historically mild taxes are a death-knell to business. Be my guest, every polluter and contaminator who can't be bothered to work in such a way that they aren't sickening and killing people by their actions.

Be my guest folks. We need more room for the people who do well by other people, for the folks who don't squander and strain the gifts of the economy, for those who don't see sickening and killing others as the necessary price of progress. We need people who realize that you can't pay everybody at the top well, and chronically shortchange those below, and hope to maintain a healthy consumer economy. No political party is so necessary to the salvation of America that it's continued rule justifies lies and deception, failure and incompetence unchecked and unpunished.

We don't need Atlases, because we all carry this weight to some degree. Those who strengthen those beyond themselves, who help us carry that burden as a people, they are the truly important people. The inventors, the good bosses, the wise investors, the careful managers. The people who care about what they do and don't cut corners. Contrary to what Rand said long ago, it's not the people who don't care about what society and others think that do the best, it's those who care, but go about satisfying their obligations in a good faith manner.

Those who want to try and test their indispensability to the world are welcome to find out just how little the rest of the world needs them and their ego, and just how little patience is left in this country for their antics and misbehavior.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at April 27, 2009 7:00 PM
Comments
Comment #281019

First?

What a crock of stuff this diatribe is… Look at Michigan.

Posted by: TP at April 27, 2009 8:57 PM
Comment #281020

TP-
What a model of clarity that response isn’t. Could you be more specific?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 27, 2009 9:25 PM
Comment #281022

Stephen I’ve seen and read many wonderful written blogs on Watchblog in the last almost 4 years for me this one is right at the top Thank you, And I’ll give my two cents worth down the thread.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at April 27, 2009 9:49 PM
Comment #281023

Stephen -

Great post, as always.

I remember reading Atlas Shrugged when I was a teenager…and I remember thinking that while the concept is nice, just like the supposed end goal of communism as defined by Marx and Engels, it was wholly incompatible with human nature.

In other words, Ayn Rand’s community of totally self-sufficient and productive credits to a new and completely insular society…was a pipe dream and could never be anything more than a pipe dream.

Mind you, I remember thinking this in the days I was a young Republican. I guess that’s one reason I’m a Democrat now.

Posted by: Glenn Contrarian at April 27, 2009 10:16 PM
Comment #281025

I have to admit I was unable to make it all the way through Atlas Shrugged on my first and only attempt at reading it all those many years ago. I found Ayn Rand to be delusional in a Timothy Leary sort of way and not worthy of serious consideration. Galt’s self importance is overblown as is Rand’s foolishly sophomoric discourse on her version of utopia. I cannot recall a book more boring than this one.
Greed, despite the right’s attempt to make it a virtue is and always has been a vice.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 27, 2009 10:59 PM
Comment #281026

Stephen

Your confidence in the people running government is touching. Consider Barney Frank we were talking about in the middle column.

America is more than its government and more than its business and - surprisingly - more than its people. Our society is a great combination of all these things plus the best effective constitution in the history of the world.

When government gets too big or powerful, it ruins the other parts of society.

Let’s not forget history. The communists/fascists/dictatorships are extreme examples of big government. We have successfully avoided the really terrible abuses in America. Ask yourself how. Have we really just been luckier than the French, Germans, Russian, Chinese, Mexicans, Brazilians …

You are calling for America to be more like these others. Paradoxically, you want the government to be afraid of the people, but you would strip the people of their countervailing power against government, except violence (and V for Vendetta was a terrible movie, BTW).

I have been reading a history of the French revolution. It was a horrible time of terror. The revolution came at great human cost and essentially failed because the mass of people had the power to destroy but not to build. Subsequent revolutions have produced even more bloodshed. We should recognize the pattern.

You say that nobody is indispensable and you are right. The free market makes it much easier to dispense with people. Governments can coerce and stay in power. In fact, many “private” abuses are done with the support of government coercion.

The U.S. system has produced some abuses, but generally less than the alternatives. It has also produced fantastic prosperity for most people, even in this downturn.

Winston Churchill said that Americans always make the right choice, after they have tried everything else. We adapt. Few others are as good at it. Our mixed system makes it possible.

I never liked Ayn Rand’s books. I don’t think it is a virtue to be selfish, but it is a virtue to mind your own business and take care of your own stuff. Those who try too hard to be “good” usually end up stepping into something they don’t understand.

The best citizens are those who work hard, take care of themselves and produce enough surplus to help take care of others. The legitimate goal of government is to create conditions where we have more of these sorts of citizens and fewer of the ones who cannot or will not pull their own weight. You cannot share wealth until you have produced it.

Posted by: Christine at April 27, 2009 11:00 PM
Comment #281032
The model of sociopath is a tempting one. You’ve got a guy prepared to win at any costs, who screws all his enemies, destroys them utterly, who doesn’t show one bit of restraint. They’re reckless, arrogant, cocky, glib, charming, all things modern society idolizes in heroes. For people often stuck in their role in life, they’re wonderful for the vicarious wish fulfillment they provide.

Possibly the biggest load of tripe I’ve read in a long time. Understandable though, people might actually think for themselves that liberty is the only actual human and decent way to treat other individuals instead of pointing guns at them ‘for the own good’, better to get the notion that anyone who isn’t FOR putting a gun to someone’s head and making sure that they Do The Right Thing is a sociopath, only on the look out to get over on others for themselves.

Of course, when applied to reality, it falls flat on its face because no matter what society we have, there are going to be sociopaths. But MOST people are not. MOST people will do what they can for others. The fact that in these times when we are over taxed, we are still giving so much of our income to others might point to that for anyone so inclined to actually look. The fact that when people need help, we only have to know about it and we come together overwhelmingly as a society to help, without government intervention or force. Over and over again. Without fail.

But no, instead we must protect against the person who is greedy and after themselves. And Stephen, the only really way to do that is in a police state. Fascism. Is that the suggestion Stephen? Because that is the end result of YOUR argument taken to its conclusion and since you are the one starting this ignorant attack on other philosophies, I suppose pointing that out is fair game, isn’t it?

I think we all know I am a libertarian. And I am also one of the most charitable men in my area. Between letting people who I don’t know live with me, freely handing out what little wealth I have acquired to help others to the point I usually have trouble making my own way to starting and running several charitable, NON GOVERNMENTAL, organizations, why I must be the exception than the rule, right?

Except it isn’t the case. I work with libertarians on a daily basis, in and around the people who have been running tea days long before this year (and you accuse us of doing so for ‘millionaires’?) and they are, without a fault, the most charitable group in this country. Just take a look at the charitable giving of Dems and then Repubs. Libertarians put our money where our mouth is, not just give flowery speeches to obtain political power and then turn against everything we run for as we are seeing this and the last administrations do.

So keep on with your hit pieces, it just makes me want to take off the gloves when it comes to the true hypocrisies I see on the left and right of the aisles. I’m beginning to think that that time is now.

Posted by: Rhinehold at April 28, 2009 12:04 AM
Comment #281034

Rhinehold,

Are you the exception, or the rule?

You argue that to protect one’s self from greed and power is tantamount to fascism. Huh? You say that is the end argument. I’d say that is more like a logical leap.

I recently read that libertarians are often very naive. I’m beginning to see that. I think there is something else at play, though. It appears to me, often, that there is a lack of valuing of other sectors of society. A sort of, I’ll be fine, screw everybody else.

I’m beginning to wonder about the demographic of those that ascribe to libertarian ideals.

There’s this post:
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/04/were-tea-parties-really-libertarian.html

and then this sign of the times:

http://www.brittneygilbert.com/2009/04/17/sorry-thats-funny/

Certainly, this is not indicative of all libertarians, but there does seem to be a tone deafness or blind spot in there somewhere. Why is that?

Posted by: gergle at April 28, 2009 5:30 AM
Comment #281036

SD
Scum rises to the top.

Nice piece and something to bear in mind while we attempt to re-regulate the financial industry
and level the field for organized labor again.

RH
Once again I am dumbfounded as how you manage to jump from a call for some overdue economic justice to a fascist police state. There are times when you make salient points. This is not one of them.


Christine

What is with you and Frank. He is a respected,hardworking,long serving member of congress. He may be from a different party than you and you may “just not like him” but to point to him as an example of bad governance is likely to lead to different conclusions. Had you used Bush as your example it might have made some sense to the likes of myself and ,most likely SD but he can speak for himself.

Posted by: bills at April 28, 2009 5:46 AM
Comment #281037

Christine-
I have confidence that people can govern themselves, both within, and outside of the government.

We can’t forget that we have a Democracy, and the leaders can be shown the door. If we forget that, then government can coerce and stay in power, because we don’t stand up to the people in charge. We cannot be complacent or lacking in motivation to fight back against such abuses. Only when a politician’s pride goes before their fall do we see humility in their ranks.

But we have to remember that this applies to folks in business. These people have been so blithe about things like exorbinant bonuses and salaries because they believe they’re entitled to them. It never occurs to them that morally speaking, they should be at least contributing value to their companies, if nothing else. Instead, they get their big bucks whether their company fails or not. The market, the downwards wage pressures were for other people, the little people.

We do, of course want self-reliance in people, but that’s something I think that we get in people only if and when they decide to develop it themselves. We also want to keep in mind that in certain departments, people no longer have the option of being self reliant, and that certain actions can also make it harder for people to take care of their own interests.

Take healthcare: with good healthcare, a person might be able to recover from a stroke, rehabilitate themselves, and rejoin the workforce. Without it, though, they might have to go on disability, forced into medical retirement. What Republicans sometimes neglect is that if you help people a little bit at the right times, and in the right ways, they can be more independent, more free in the ways that matter.

So I guess we agree in that respect. Question is, how do we get there?

Rhinehold-
Who am I calling a sociopath? Let me be plain: sociopaths!

I genuinely believe that there are a class of people within society not socioeconomic, but psychological, even neurological, who just have a difficult time caring or noticing the harm they do to others.

If we could trust everybody to do the right thing, laws would be unnecessary. If people couldn’t go mad with power, or just wield it callously, we wouldn’t need a Bill of Rights. If one group of people in one state couldn’t act in callous disregard of the good of all the states, we could have stuck with the Articles of Confederation.

When it comes to people who lack empathy and scruples, neither libertarianism or authorianism is any protection. Our only protection, besides our own wits and conscience is clearly defined power and clearly defined freedoms from that power. That is why Democrats are big on government, but also big on civil liberties.

I have kept myself a Watchblog writer, and a commenter precisely because I rarely take the gloves off. What good does it do, typically? All I’m aiming your way is words. What will your getting angry with me for my opinion do to me?

If you do the things you say you do, then regardless of your politics, you are not one of the people I’m writing against. But that’s not to say such people don’t exist, or that in another position people might not be oblivious to the harm they cause others.

For the last thirty years, we’ve fought laws that make people more responsible for the actions they take, for the lives that are in their hands, for how they treat their employees and customers. We’ve fought them, and then almost landed ourselves right back where we start, as far as the conditions that inspired those laws in the first place.

I would like fewer rules, and prefer simpler, more elegant systems of rules. But sometimes we have a choice between getting everything 100% right and taking care of business. We’re not wise enough or smart enough in this complex world to leave everything to people’s judgment, much as we would prefer it the other way around.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 28, 2009 8:40 AM
Comment #281040

She was incredibly intelligent and gifted and still a controversial figure even today she expressed many of her Ideas and beliefs in her writings coming from a closed society and from a fairly influential family that was repressed and damaged by the the soviet regime and landing on our free soil she had the freedoms to express her thoughts and feelings I believe she was over the top on much of her beliefs to put it mildly and much of her writings were from her hatred of the soviet system of her childhood and early years I’d say she expressed some libertarian elitist views and Ideas and tended to forget about or ignore the rest of society ,She was a dynamo.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at April 28, 2009 11:28 AM
Comment #281041

The Peter Principle accounts for much of the incompetence and ineptitude that rises from histories of competence and accomplishment. Those histories become rose colored glasses to observers of a new leader or spotlight personage.

Then, there are those whose competence and eptitude seem to know no bounds, despite their dying in the midst of a struggle with yet another challenge left unfinished. And they are more ubiquitous than one might think. Our nation of 300 million people functions only because of its broad class of competents fulfilling adequately to superbly the jobs they signed up to do.

The argument that folks are indispensable is undermined by the broad range of competents in our society from dentists, to politicians, to teachers, to parents. In a society in which individuals are told they can be whatever they want to be, (a bald faced lie - as an individual’s temperament, education, intelligence, learning capacity, upbringing, and more, combine to limit the range of occupations one might excel in), we, as a society, fail to guide our young adults toward areas in which their unique abilities could excel. There is an enormous lack of vocational assessment available to parents, teachers, counselors, and employers, despite such measurements having been developed to the point of being usefully predictive and reliable. So, the Peter Principle makes itself evident in all of America’s endeavors from engineering to teaching, medicine to law, painter to bricklayer.

P.S., was a time when the skilled trades had a process in place to insure a match between ability and performance before journeyman status could be achieved. Junior colleges and universities have been substituted to some extent for these trade societies of experience and competence training, especially for white collar skilled trades. The free market’s penchant for the bottom line and on time demand fulfillment have eroded the expectation of competence in hiring for a broad range of white collar vocations.

But, our systems for selecting competence still work to a large degree, but they are slipping more and more in matching task to talent and experience. Experience is not having been there and done that. Experience is having done that very well many times under many different circumstances. We, as a nation, would do well, to slow down, and insure truer experience and higher levels of competence for our institutional leadership roles whether public or private.

And competent professionals would do society a great service in helping to identify and prepare the next generation to replace them. Consider it insurance for their children to live out their lives in a nation of competents, instead of the alternative.

And just so there is no mistake, competence begins with honesty, trustworthiness, and commitment to service the needs of others. The failure to recognize and insure this foundation for competence, is at the root of America’s growing incompetence. Character matters enormously in assessing competence. Just ask Bernie Madoff investors or Obama voters who previously voted for GW Bush.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 28, 2009 11:43 AM
Comment #281044

j2t2,Greed, despite the right’s attempt to make it a virtue is and always has been a vice.Democrats don’t seem to think it’s a vice when they use it to buy votes with our grandchildren’s money.

The fact of the matter is Stephen writes a caricature of a caricature here to obscure the fact that he is not describing real successful people, the vast majority of whom are moral and generaous people. He wants us to believe Democrats are more suited to lead us in the world essentially because Galt is a fiction.

But… the leadership of real capitalists, risking their own resources and providing real productivity and real jobs to the great benefit of the real world really would be missed terribly if it were removed from the economic picture. Nothing in the history of any authoritarian regime of “caring” people, however brilliant their leaders may be, has shown we can get along without this class of people.

You may resent them. You may not be clever enough to understand why they operate as they do. You may write your alternative caricatures of reality in law and seek to enforce them. You cannot, however, demonstrate, from the laboratory of reality, any example of a society that could remove the real people on whom the fiction of Galt was based from power and find the lives of the common people improved.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at April 28, 2009 11:56 AM
Comment #281048

Stephen,

You make a statement:

“I genuinely believe that there are a class of people within society not socioeconomic, but psychological, even neurological, who just have a difficult time caring or noticing the harm they do to others.”

Let me ask you a question. The other day I read a report that Dick Chaney, in 2008, gave 75% of his income of $6 million to charity. Joe Biden gave only $3k of his $1mill income to the charity but he gave a long lecture how paying more taxes to help the country is a patriotic thing. I guess he is lot more cavalier with our money than his own money.

Which one of these 2 vice presidents falls into the above mentioned group?

You also stated:

“When it comes to people who lack empathy and scruples, neither libertarianism or utopianism is any protection. Our only protection, besides our own wits and conscience is clearly defined power and clearly defined freedoms from that power. That is why Democrats are big on government, but also big on civil liberties.”

This is another interesting thesis you put forth but I wish you would learn to support your thoughts with some evidence. You make this statement and I can only guess you are referring to the group described in your earlier paragraph:

“These people have been so blithe about things like exorbitant bonuses and salaries because they believe they’re entitled to them. It never occurs to them that morally speaking, they should be at least contributing value to their companies, if nothing else. Instead, they get their big bucks whether their company fails or not.”

But you fail to recognize that the “freedoms and powers” are clearly defined in the constitution we just choose to ignore them when it’s convenient without any regard to the precedent. You are for a big government that sticks its nose in everything and in your mind that is ok because today you agree with the ideas of the majority. Tomorrow your party will loose and the expanded rights which you handed over to the Big Brother will be used in the manner which wasn’t originally intended. The historical irony of the French Revolution was that a man who erected the guillotine, Maximilien Robespierre, fell victim to it.

You criticize big business as if it existed outside of the society. More often than not, the big business and big government are interdependent. The whole idea behind the states rights arose from the concern of the founding fathers that a consolidation of the power in a central authority would limit the individual rights and liberties. President Andrew Jackson disbanded 2nd National Bank on the following bases:

It concentrated the nation’s financial strength in a single institution.
It exposed the government to control by foreign interests.
It served mainly to make the rich richer.
It exercised too much control over members of Congress.
It favored northeastern states over southern and western states

These same reasons were true with Fannie Mae and AIG which brought about the financial system crush, but the big government (republicans and democrates alike) wouldn’t give up on this failed program.

Many people, including you, fail to recognize that we are not a Democracy. We are a Democratic Republic. On top of it, we are a Union of sovereign states who delegated SPECIFIC rights to the United States. Why do you think Chris Dodd, Senator from Connecticut, received so much money from a corporation (AIG) which was based in New York? And Barney Frank’s, representative from MA, top 10 donors are as follows

1 Brown Brothers Harriman & Co $36,200 $36,200 $0
2 Manulife Financial $15,000 $7,000 $8,000
3 Royal Bank of Scotland $13,800 $7,800 $6,000
4 Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu $13,000 $3,000 $10,000
5 Bank of America $12,750 $750 $12,000
6 American Bankers Assn $12,050 $2,300 $9,750
7 CME Group $12,000 $0 $12,000
7 National Assn of Realtors $12,000 $2,000 $10,000
9 American Society of Appraisers $11,000 $0 $11,000
9 JPMorgan Chase & Co $11,000 $1,000 $10,000
9 Morgan Stanley $11,000 $0 $11,000
9 Securities Industry & Financial Mkt Assn $11,000 $1,000 $10,000


Not one of these companies are from MA. Again, when you concentrate the power in a central location, you are creating a fertile ground for the Big Business and all the associated corruption. There is a reason why incumbents get re-elected over 90% of the time. There is a reason why who ever spends more money wins elections over 90% of the times. There is a reason why GE CEO is pushing NBC to give President Obama positive coverage because GE is in line to receive a huge government contract for Green energy development. Guess what, it will be a “no bid” contract because no one else has the “facility and resources to conduct the research on that scale”. You know what will happen? GE will be a Project Manager on the program, will sub out 90% of the work to the smaller companies which it either owns or has a controlling share in, those companies will sub out the smaller parts to 3rd tear sub-contractors. All along those lines margins are being added. At the end, it will be the smaller companies which will do most of the development but will get the least of the money. If these funds have gone out into the states and let the states award what is good for their states, the cost of the program would have been much lower and effectiveness would have been much higher. On the other hand, influence of the big business, such as GE, would have been much more limited and the need for maintaining such an oversized corporation as GE would be eliminated. GE would naturally break into the smaller parts which would work more efficiently and wield not national but local influence.

Posted by: Crusader at April 28, 2009 1:02 PM
Comment #281054

Lee said: “But… the leadership of real capitalists, risking their own resources and providing real productivity and real jobs to the great benefit of the real world”

Surely, Lee, you are not speaking of the Wall St. bankers, or the Big 3’s executive management, or the capitalists behind the mortgage industry lending practices, are you? Because these capitalists have risked NOTHING except shareholder’s investments, and more than risking them, they have lost 11 trillion dollars worth of shareholder’s investments from all walks of life.

You must be speaking of the small mom and pop business capitalists, you know the owner operator capitalists. On these I would agree with you. But, if you are including capitalists sitting on corporate boards of directors and executive management of major corporations bribing government policy to the detriment of the nation and her future, then, I have to disagree with you wholeheartedly.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 28, 2009 2:26 PM
Comment #281055

Crusader, you make many good points.

I like this one: “At the end, it will be the smaller companies which will do most of the development but will get the least of the money.”

Just like the low paid workers in a large corporation.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 28, 2009 2:33 PM
Comment #281061

Lee Jamison-
What’s the old saying? I’d like to buy him for what he’s worth, and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth?

I believe in innovation, in capitalism, in all that. I would surely hate to see the people who actually have good ideas withdraw their efforts. But here’s the thing:

a) How many of the people threatening to “go Galt” are actually as indispensable as they think?

b) How many of these people, even if they felt put upon, would actually forgo the economic rewards for their efforts?

c) Even if they did, would people just be lost, or would other people just learn what they had to learn and improve themselves in the face of such a strike?

d) And really, what rules out the possibility that there aren’t people of equal or greater skill who would take advantage of the openings created by the Galt-etariat?

Really, this just stinks to me of Social Darwinism, and the naive assumption that the person in the job right now is necessarily the best and the only person capable of carrying it out.

Oh, by the way: most capitalists nowadays risk other people’s money before they risk their own. Michael Lewis, who Rhinehold quotes (and whose article detailing the fall of Wall Street he neglected to read apparently) talks about the positively cavalier way in which the salesmen steered people into bad investments, and how this was partly a result of the fact that most investment banks went public, which meant that stockholders, rather than the partners themselves were left to assume the risk on investments.

To put it plainly, many of those who plan to go Galt, would probably not be missed. And many of the people who might actually better qualify as important folks don’t have that massive chip on their shoulder, that sense of entitlement.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 28, 2009 4:10 PM
Comment #281064

David,

Surely, Lee, you are not speaking of the Wall St. bankers, or the Big 3’s executive management, or the capitalists behind the mortgage industry lending practices, are you? Because these capitalists have risked NOTHING except shareholder’s investments, and more than risking them, they have lost 11 trillion dollars worth of shareholder’s investments from all walks of life.
That’s right. I’m not talking about them.

The Wall Street banks that were almost completely unscathed in September were, in fact, the ones where the partners were required to have their own money in the capitalization of the banks. Imagine that.

The trouble is we’re allowing huge corporations to run themselves the same way government runs itself. We get the same quality of performance from both.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at April 28, 2009 4:25 PM
Comment #281070

Lee said: “The trouble is we’re allowing huge corporations to run themselves the same way government runs itself. We get the same quality of performance from both.”

I am hard pressed to disagree with you on that. But, I would point out that to a far greater degree than is healthy for America, it is these corporations who run government. And the GOP has been the champion of corporation’s voices in government policy making. I recall Dick Cheney conducting a secret Energy Conference with Energy Corp. exec’s and presenting the plan to the Republican led Congress for adoption.

I would also point out, voters determine the government they get to a large degree by reelecting incumbents even when they govern poorly. Whereas, corporate boards of directors are charged with the legal fiduciary duty of hiring and firing executives in accordance with performance. Which means shareholders are primarily responsible, (for the Board of Directors), and not the voters.

Which alludes to a common cause of poor performance in government and the corporate world, as shareholders and voters share the same universe with each other and flaw of failing to hold their representatives accountable. Too much effort required, apparently.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 28, 2009 5:17 PM
Comment #281074

Lee The way I remember the story Galt was a big industrialist that decided to take his toys and go home because he felt unappreciated by those he thought to be of a lower station in life. IMHO the Galts of the world can take their toys and go home as they are now the problem not the solution. As is the case with most on the right you have allowed the Galts of the world to hide behind those that actually do spend their own money. It is not the small business owners I resent at all Lee it is the corporatist capitalist using OPM that have bought our representatives in Congress and perverted capitalism and the laws of this country for their own greed. As such I would rather take my chances without the Galts of the world running the show. History has shown time and time again the Galts of the world to be concerned only with themselves and not the common people.

Instead of testifying in front of Congress that his company and the industry needs to import lower paid engineers from India while Americans are out of work I would ask that Bill “Galt” Gates take his toys and go home. I am sure the common people will do just fine without him.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 28, 2009 6:02 PM
Comment #281106

“…unlike the Fountainhead reviews, which were generally positive, the reviews of Atlas Shrugged were generally very negative, especially in the major publications. Ayn Rand’s radical philosophy had become explicit in Atlas Shrugged, and the reviewers reacted accordingly.

In a review that Ayn Rand labeled “junk,” the Christian Science Monitor, apparently thinking that the novel was intended as commentary on current events, lamented that it had no relevance because the American economy was booming. It also attacked the book for being full of extremes and absolutes, with no middle ground or compromise; in fact, it argued, had the heroes exercised their “political responsibility,” they wouldn’t have been taken over.” from http://atlasshrugged.com/book/history.html

The main character seems to be based on soeone a lot like FLW, who died in 1959.
http://www.gowright.org/flw/bio.html

Posted by: ohrealy at April 29, 2009 11:22 AM
Comment #281125

Lee Jamison-
Okay, so let me get this straight: You’re for forbidding banks to go public with their stock?

You know, folks in Depression times could have chosen to forbid publically traded companies. Instead, they regulated and legislated requirements on these companies that made publically trading these companies more like what investment is idealized to be, and less like a crapshoot at a casino.

Rather than forbid people to take risks, we create rules as to how risks could be incurred, and made sure that most of the risks that were legal were the kind that were legitimate: that is, whether a company makes money, rather than whether a company simply made their books up.

The point of the regulations put in place should be, and most of the time is, to cut out the risks that people shouldn’t have to worry about, like the honesty of the brokers and the accountants at a corporation, while leaving people to be responsible for their losses should they just honestly screw up their decision of who to put their money in.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 29, 2009 6:38 PM
Comment #281213

David, sadly, has a point when he states that the GOP has spent its hour opon the stage championing the great corporations. Myself, I’d sacrifice them in a heartbeat, if only because the champions of government would quickly find out how much they depend on them both for their own policy priorities and as boogie-men to use as imputed avatars for their enemies.

Imagine, if there were no Exxon, Aramco, or Shell there could be no vast inflow of foreign oil. The Middle East would be a backwater of influence as well as a cultural wasteland…and we’d be drilling for oil all over the Gulf Of Mexico.

I think you’d find conservatives in general and libertarians far more sanguine (in spite of the fawning of corporatist Republicans) in the notion of losing corporations than you’d find Democrats.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at May 2, 2009 9:52 AM
Comment #281234

What I believe, Mr. Jamison, is that we would be much better off if we didn’t have to pay attention to big business. Nonetheless, we have to pay heed to them.

While I support the enforcement of anti-trust laws, the prevention of excessive consolidation, I am also a believer that up to a certain point, large corporations can do good for the economy.

Not trusts, nor monopolies; those are problematic in that they’re fairly unmotivated in their extensive holdings. Even Wal-Mart’s expansion was problematic, since the corporation constantly fought to make itself the only game in town, literally speaking.

I think when we fail to rein in big business, we create a thin, non-robust system that essentially leaves American markets with few economic alternatives, even outright error.

But the control has to be moderate, because big regional, even nation businesses have their role, as small companies do as well. There must be balance, not an environment just generally hostile to one or the other.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 3, 2009 8:50 AM
Post a comment