Free Markets, Free People

Ayn Rand


What happened in Detroit? Well, frankly, “Atlas Shrugged”

You have to read this article by Bill Nojay in the Wall Street Journal.  Nojay was hired as the COO of the Detroit Department of Transportation, on contract, for 8 months.  His litany of woes is, as Insty notes, almost straight out of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”. 

It is all but an article of faith on the left and certain pseud-intellectuals that Rand was a crackpot.  Yet here we are watching what she wrote become reality:

Micromanagement by the council was endemic; I once sat for five hours waiting to discuss a minor transportation matter while City Council members debated whether to authorize the demolition of individual vacant and vandalized houses, one by one. There are over 40,000 vacant houses in Detroit.

Union and civil-service rules made it virtually impossible to fire anyone. A six-step disciplinary process provided job protection to anyone with a pulse, regardless of poor performance or bad behavior. Even the time-honored management technique of moving someone up or sideways where he would do less harm didn’t work in Detroit: Job descriptions and qualification requirements were so strict it was impossible for management to rearrange the organization chart. I was a manager with virtually no authority over personnel.

When the federal government got involved, it only made things worse. A federal lawsuit charging that the DDOT did not fully comply with the law in accommodating disabled riders had dragged on for years because of idealistic but painfully naïve Justice Department attorneys seeking regulatory perfection. I felt like a guy in the boiler room of the Titanic, desperately bailing to keep the ship afloat for a few more hours while the DOJ attorneys complained from their first-class cabin that their champagne wasn’t properly chilled.

Detroit’s other municipal departments had similar challenges. I would often compare notes with managers trying to run the city’s street lights, recreation programs, police departments and smaller offices. All of us faced similar gridlock.

The “government is the answer” crowd have a lot to answer for when considering Detroit.  In that city, government was as much of the problem, in fact, likely the biggest problem the city faced.  It couldn’t get out of its own way.  And as the city deteriorated and taxes skyrocketed in an attempt to offset the deterioration, the producers finally fled.  They shrugged.  They said, “no more.”  This country is headed in the same direction.

It just may take a little bit more time to reach the depths of Detroit and suffer the same result – but there’s little if any question it’s on the same road as Detroit.  It has passed through the stop sign, busted through the road closed sign and is headed toward the cliff.  The only control anyone may have now is how fast the whole contraption reaches the edge.

~McQ


Quote Of The Day

One of my favorite actors, 76 year old Michael Caine, gives us the quote of the day:

“The Government has taken tax up to 50 per cent, and if it goes to 51 I will be back in America,” he said at the weekend. “We’ve got 3.5 million layabouts on benefits, and I’m 76, getting up at 6am to go to work to keep them. Let’s get everybody back to work so we can save a couple of billion and cut tax, not keep sticking it up.”

“Atlas Shrugged” becomes more and more relevant as governments take more and more of what people earn while leveraging such actions on the support of those “layabouts” Caine cites. The good news is that Caine has America to fall back on, which has relatively lower taxes. The bad new is, given the amount of debt being piled on, that is going to change.

~McQ


Is Atlas Shrugged finally going to the silver screen?

This my latest article for the Atlanta Examiner.

Talk of putting Ayn Rand’s classic, Atlas Shrugged, on the silver screen has made its way back into the news:

After decades in development hell, Ayn Rand’s capitalism-minded “Atlas Shrugged” is taking new steps toward the big screen — with one of the film world’s most prominent money men potentially at its center.

Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media is circling the Baldwin Entertainment project and could come aboard to finance with Lionsgate, which got involved several years ago.

Rand’s popular but polarizing book — it’s derided by many literary critics but has a huge public following — tells the story of Dagny Taggart, a railroad executive trying to keep her corporation competitive in the face of what she perceives as a lack of innovation and individual responsibility.

A number of stars have expressed serious interest in playing the lead role of Taggart. Angelina Jolie previously had been reported as a candidate to play the strong female character, but the list is growing and now includes Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway.

This isn’t the first time there has been talk of making Atlas Shrugged into a motion picture, as the article notes. In fact, Rand was working on a screenplay when she died in 1982. Needless to say, the project has a history of not getting off the ground.

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, is a work of fiction, however, it contains key concepts of Rand’s personal philosophy, Objectivism, which teaches rational self-interest, personal sovereignty and free-market capitalism. Many also consider it to be somewhat prophetic, especially during this current economic downturn.

The producers of society, represented by Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden, Francisco d’Anconia and John Galt, are derided by antagonists in the book and government action, supported by “looters” and “moochers,” begin leading its citizens down the path of socialism. Sound familiar?

In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Rand called business, “America’s persecuted minority.” Though, as Rand once pointed out, businessmen are often enemies of capitalism because they seek government favor, much like companies seeking bailouts today.

With the rise of the group mentality and class warfare, the producers in our world today are castigated and blamed for the current economic downfall. Rand once said, “One of the methods used by statists to destroy capitalism consists in establishing controls that tie a given industry hand and foot, making it unable to solve its problems, then declaring that freedom has failed and stronger controls are necessary.” That is exactly what we are seeing in today societal and political rhetoric, just look at recent comments by President Barack Obama for affirmation of the misguided and cancerous populism consuming America. That the market has failed and it must be regulated to the point of expanding government power to take over businesses.

Keep your fingers crossed that a film adaption of Atlas Shrugged gets done. with a message as powerful as the novel. Rand’s message needs to be heard.

If you’d like to learn more about Ayn Rand, please visit the Ayn Rand Institute and the Atlas Society.

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