Saturday, January 10, 2009

'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years


If only "Atlas" were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster.

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.

One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today:
Galt: "You want me to be Economic Dictator?"
Mr. Thompson:
"And you'll obey any order I give?"
start by
abolishing all income taxes."
"Oh no!" screamed Mr. Thompson,
leaping to his
feet. "We couldn't do that . . . How would we pay government
"Fire your government employees."
"Oh, no!"

Abolishing the income tax. Now that really would be a genuine economic stimulus. But Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Washington want to do the opposite: to raise the income tax "for purposes of fairness" as Barack Obama puts it.

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