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John Galt

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Who is our John Galt?

Atlas ShruggedFor years, I’ve joked that we shouldn’t be asking, “Who is John Galt?” But, “Where is John Galt?”

However, with modern satellites and other methods of surveillance, I don’t think there’s any place on earth to build our own Galt’s Gulch, the mythological hideaway that Ayn Rand described in her novel, Atlas Shrugged.

We’re going to have to look for the man rather than the place, after all.

While Galt had some good ideas about production and the free market,  he scoffed at altruism and self-sacrifice.  In his world, the solution he advocated the withdrawal of our talent and gold from society and to let civilization collapse.

And yet, Galt’s actions were not completely consistent with his words. He gave up safety, comfort and wealth in order to win converts and enable the “producers” to escape the tyranny of his government.

From Galt’s speech explaining why his actions were not a sacrifice:

“‘Sacrifice’ does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious. ‘Sacrifice’ does not mean the rejection of the evil for the sake of the good, but of the good for the sake of the evil.”

and,

“If a man refuses to sell his convictions, it is not a sacrifice, unless he is the sort of man who has no convictions.”

Who John Galt in 2015?

Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”

Okay, hunker down in the bunkers, y’all.

Atlas ShruggedThere is truth to be found in the multi-page soliloquies in Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s opus that has won over readers in generation after generation. John Galt’s philosophy appeals to individualists and is rooted in classic liberalism that we now call libertarian or conservative.

But where Rand excelled was as an excellent observer of statism and socialism, as well as faithfully reporting the justification made by the proponents of each. Since reading Atlas Shrugged in the mid-1990’s, I’ve heard and read adults make the very claims that some of Rand’s characters make about the duty of producers and employers and the “rights” of the people who want benefits without obligations and who are willing to use the  power of guilt, class warfare and greed to control both.

However, Rand’s objectivist libertarian philosophy goes too far. She was anti-religious, anti-altruistpro-abortion and left her husband in order to live with a much younger man who was also married. In fact, her portrayals of relationships between men and women too often resemble warped rape and dominance games. Her earlier book, The Fountainhead, includes a controversial scene that Rand is said to have described as, “If it was rape, it was rape with an engraved invitation.  Fifty Shades of Gray from the ’50’s?) The fact that John Galt would hide away with fellow rich, intelligent and successful elites in a remote enclave and allow the rest of society to self-destruct is selfish and impractical.  (Rand herself certainly didn’t attempt to “go Galt.”)

If you want to understand today’s political debate, I believe you must read  Atlas Shrugged. The beginning is online, here.

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