“But guys, it’s just a book!”

That’s what BBC Newsnight’s Paul Mason writes about Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. In a literal sense, he’s right. But Atlas Shrugged is more than that. It is a book of ideas – what English is to Latin and colloquial Hindi to Sanskrit, Atlas Shrugged is to tomes on philosophy and economics. It made these subjects accessible to confused kids, confused adults, and everyone else who felt there was something wrong with the world without being able to lay a finger on what it exactly was. The fact that Mason has to attack the book is proof that it is not “just a book”. He may compare AIG to Taggart Transcontinental, and even mention John Galt and Dagny Taggart, but he forgets to draw the real parallels – he forgets Jim Taggart, Orren Boyle, Wesley Mouch, and the worst of them all – Stadler and Pritchett – the “intellectuals”.

Mason continues

In the book the ultimate hero/wise man figure, John Galt, proclaims: “I swear by my Life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine.” I find this credo a challenging counter-argument to the co-dependent culture of our times, but as a shaper of business strategy it has brought great corporations to their knees in days that had lasted more than a century.

As a creed it is being rapidly and publicly disowned by both parties: Obama and McCain are, as I speak, knocking lumps out of each other on the networks over the failure to properly regulate; and CNN is doing an explainer on FDR’s New Deal.

In the next decade the debate over regulation will not be over strong versus weak regulation, but clever versus dumb: it’s a global system and the light touch regulators have a point in that heavy handedness simply drives the problem offshore. But American capitalism was, today, teetering on the brink of a really serious business failure – manifestly because AIG’s activities had slipped through what now looks like pretty ineffective regulation.

“Running the real economy, as Hank Paulson has proved tonight, you have to put behind you romanticism and ideology of every kind,” Mason concludes. Good luck with that. Mises and Rand just laughed at that joke.

Continuing with commentaries on the crisis, Edward Cline writes for The Rule of Reason

Another interesting facet of the government-made financial crisis is that two of the entities that needed to be “rescued” by the government, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are government-founded mortgage companies created to sell and invest in cheap credit and cheap mortgages. There was no other purpose to their existence. They were created to “serve the public.” Treasury chief Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve chief Bernard Bernanke have nothing over Scottish banker John Law, author of the Mississippi Bubble in early 18th century France. Their fiscal policies and economic philosophy are so similar to Law’s that one would think Law was their mentor, but they have blanked out the ruinous consequences of the same schemes.

Nevertheless, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been portrayed by Congress and the news media as independent of the government, when in fact they are taxpayer-subsidized. In a genuinely free market, an organization that behaved as recklessly as they did would have gone bankrupt and vanished from the scene. But because they were tax-subsidized, risk was no object, American taxpayers being seen by them and Congress as an inexhaustible cash cow. This was also the operating philosophy of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG, four of their biggest “customers.” They are government entities that hire their own lobbyists to shill for special favors and treatment from – the government.

Financial skullduggery is not the only offense that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have committed. Their employees, whose salaries are paid by taxpayers, have also “invested” in the perpetuation of their jobs by sending money to the campaigns and pet pork barrels of Senators Barack Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and many other politicians.

“Perhaps the only thing that will educate the American public now is the failure of the system which they were told, and which they believed, was justice-proof,” he says.

A reader of The Telegraph offers a quote attributed to libertarian late Harry Browne that sums up the US Government’s attitude towards the crisis – “Government cripples you, then hands you a crutch and says, ‘See, if it wasn’t for us, you couldn’t walk.'”

Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  • you12  On September 29, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    Atlas Shrugged is not really popular with critics. They prefer the likes of Ulysses.

    One can understand them as characters in Rand’s novel are there to carry a statement rather than to portray a person.

    Even I sometimes can’t decide! Is she a philosophical writer or a writer or a philosopher!

  • Aristotle The Geek  On September 30, 2008 at 3:51 am

    She is a writer-philosopher. And this is what she said about her writing-

    The motive and purpose of my writing is the projection of an ideal man. The portrayal of a moral ideal, as my ultimate literary goal, as an end in itself—to which any didactic, intellectual or philosophical values contained in a novel are only the means.

    Let me stress this: my purpose is not the philosophical enlightenment of my readers, it is not the beneficial influence which my novels may have on people, it is not the fact that my novels may help a reader’s intellectual development. All these matters are important, but they are secondary considerations, they are merely consequences and effects, not first cause or prime movers. My purpose, first cause, and prime mover is the portrayal of Howard Roark or John Galt or Hank Rearden or Francisco d’Anconia as an end in himself—not as a means to any further end. Which, incidentally, is the greatest value I could ever offer a reader.

  • Bruce Peterson  On January 11, 2009 at 2:11 am

    So is the Bible…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s