Friday, 6 March 2009

Are you Going John Galt? [update 2]

Are you Going John Galt?  I ask, because as The Reign of The Obamessiah kicks in, more and more Americans are going on strike, and “Going John Galt.”  Explains Michelle Malkin, who characterises it as ‘Going Galt’: America's Wealth Producers Vs. Wealth Redistributors,

rockefeller2-200x300    Enough. In a word, that is the message of disgusted taxpayers fed up with the confiscatory policies of both parties in Washington. George Bush pre-socialized the economy with billion-dollar bailouts of the financial and auto industries. Barack Obama is pouring billions more down those sinkholes. It isn't just the camel's back that's broken. His neck and four legs have all snapped, too…
    Enough. Last Friday, thousands of Americans turned out to protest reckless government spending in the pork-laden stimulus package, the earmark-clogged budget bill, the massive mortgage-entitlement program and taxpayer-funded corporate rescues… The ‘Tea Party’ participants held homemade signs that said it all: "Your mortgage is not my problem"; "Liberty: All the stimulus we need"; "No taxation without deliberation."     
    While they take to the streets [in protest] politically, untold numbers of America's wealth 22185producers are going on strike financially. Dr. Helen Smith, a Tennessee forensic psychologist and political blogger, dubbed the phenomenon "Going Galt" last fall. It's a reference to the famed Ayn Rand novel "Atlas Shrugged," in which protagonist John Galt leads the entrepreneurial class to cease productive activities in order to starve the government of revenue. (Not incidentally, Rand's novel sales are up and John Galt references punctuated many of the Tea Party demonstrations.)

For those who’ve not yet read Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, the John Galt reference is to a near-mythical character who symbolises resistance to a collapsing statist culture.  (If I say any more, I’ll spoil it for you.)

Now pay attention: these people who are appropriated the symbol of John Galt are not, for the most part, Objectivists.  They simply understand the power of the John Galt character as symbol of their resistance.  As Robert Tracinscki explains excitedly, we’re seeing cultural change before our eyes in the visceral reaction to the tipping point of Barack’s Big Government, and the reaching for symbols in that struggle:

    Can you believe it? I've been toiling in the Objectivist cause for a little more than two decades, and I have never seen this before. Objectivists are not driving this new cultural reference to Ayn Rand's work and ideas. It has been taken up by people outside of the Objectivist movement who in many cases have only a vague knowledge of her writings, who have independently appropriated our symbols and ideas to explain what they see going on in the world around them.
This is a watershed moment for Ayn Rand's influence on the culture.

Tracinscki identifies the first public appearance of the Going John Galt movement as this ABC story, which “found and talked to some of the upper-middle-class individuals who Obama expects to pay for his socialist utopia, and the reporter finds that many of them still believe that they earned their wealth and are not eager to work for the benefit of government bureaucrats and welfare-state freeloaders.”

"Upper-Income Taxpayers Look for Ways to Sidestep Obama Tax-Hike Plan," 
Emily Friedman, ABC News, March 2
    President Barack Obama's tax proposal—which promises to increase taxes for those families with incomes of $250,000 or more—has some Americans brainstorming ways to decrease their pay in an attempt to avoid paying higher taxes on every dollar they earn over the quarter million dollar mark.
    A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told that she plans to cut back on her business to get her annual income under the quarter million mark should the Obama tax plan be passed by Congress and become law…. "We have to find a way out where we can make just what we need to just under the line so we can benefit from Obama's tax plan," she added. "Why kill yourself working if you're going to give it all away to people who aren't working as hard?"…
    Obama's budget proposal calls for $989 billion in new taxes over the next 10 years, most of which will be earned from increased taxes on individuals who make more than $200,000 and from families who make more than $250,000.
    The expiration of the Bush administration's tax cuts at the end of 2010 would garner an estimated $338 billion, $179 billion would come from reducing the size of some itemized deductions, such as mortgage interest and charitable donations, for higher-income taxpayers, and $118 billion would be brought in from a hike in the capital gains tax. The remaining $353 billion would come from taxes on businesses….
    Dr. Sharon Poczatek, who runs her own dental practice in Boulder, Colo., said that she too is trying to figure out ways to get out of paying the taxes proposed in Obama's plan….
    "The motivation for a lot of people like me—dentists, entrepreneurs, lawyers—is that the more you work the more money you make," said Poczatek. "But if I'm going to be working just to give it back to the government—it's de-motivating and demoralizing."…
    "Those who are going to be taxed more are obviously going to complain but I think they may miss the point," said Lisa Rotenstein, the chair of the Harvard Healthcare Policy Group at the Institute of Politics. "This could have broader implications for the American economy as a whole improved health care means a healthier workforce that is more productive," said Rotenstein….
    "I'd like these people to know that we pay a lot of taxes, and have been paying a lot of taxes through the past administration," said Pcozatek. "We make a lot of money, it's true, but we also already pay a lot of taxes," she said.
     "So maybe we got a little bit successful but we worked very hard," she said. "It's taken us over 30 years and it didn't happen overnight. Every day is a lot of work.
    "We're working for it and we're still overtaxed."

BTW, if you are going Galt, then Helen Smith would like to talk to you at Pyjamas TV.

And I’d like to watch.

UPDATE 1: Oswald Bastable reminds me that the JGALT numberplate is still available, in NZ at least.

UPDATE 2: This excerpt from Atlas Shrugged lays out the moral issue at stake here.  As Paul Hsieh points out in the context of the Tea Parties, it is the morality behind ‘Going John Galt’ that people need to grasp. “Protesters must couple their outrage at bailouts with a positive vision of a properly limited government,” he says.

And Robert Tracinscki points out “we will need more than just a political rebellion against the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress. We will need to engage in an ideological struggle, a battle of ideas. Columnist Monica Crowley named it best early last week when she called for a "21st century Boston Tea Party" and said that we needed a "second American revolution of ideas," "of getting back to the ideals of limited government, of constitutional parameters on government power, of individual liberty, and of the free market."

People ‘Going John Galt’ are getting it emotionally – these words below are part of what they now need to give voice to those emotions, an excerpt called elsewhere ‘The Martyrdom of the Industrialists.’  They appear in the context of a conversation between a self-made steel producer seriously hampered by a government seemingly intent on his destruction, Henry Rearden, and a ‘rebel’ who wants to give words to Rearden’s own frustrations:

     "You take pride in setting no limit to your endurance, Mr. Rearden, because you think that you are doing right. What if you aren't? What if you're placing your virtue in the service of evil and letting it become a tool for the destruction of everything you love, respect and admire? Why don't you uphold your own code of values among men as you do among iron smelters? You who won't allow once per cent of impurity into an alloy of metal - what have you allowed into your moral code?
"You, who would not submit to the hardships of nature, but set out to conquer it and placed it in the service of your joy and your comfort - to what have you submitted at the hands of men? You, who know from your work that one bears punishment only for being wrong - what have you been willing to bear and for what reason?
    “All your life, you have heard yourself denounced, not for your faults, but for your greatest virtues. You have been hated, not for your mistakes, but for your achievements. You have been scorned for all those qualities of character which are your highest pride. You have been called selfish for the courage of acting on your own judgment and bearing sole responsibility for your own life. You have been called arrogant for your independent mind. You have been called cruel for your unyielding integrity. You have been called antisocial for the vision that made you venture upon undiscovered roads. You have been called ruthless for the strength and self-discipline of your drive to your purpose. You have been called greedy for the magnificence of your power to create wealth. You, who've expanded an inconceivable flow of energy, have been called a parasite. You, who've created abundance where there had been nothing but wastelands and helpless, starving men before you, have been called a robber. You, who've kept them all alive, have been called an exploiter. You, the purest and more moral man among them, have been sneered at as a 'vulgar materialist.' Have you stopped to ask them: by what right? - by what code? - by what standard? No, you have borne it all and kept silent. You bowed to their code and you never upheld your own. You knew what exacting morality was needed to produce a single metal nail, but you let them brand you as immoral. You knew that man needs the strictest code of values to deal with nature, but you left the deadliest weapon in the hands of your enemies, a weapon you never suspected or understood.
    Their moral code is their weapon.
    Ask yourself what it is that a code of moral values does to a man's life, and why he can't exist without it, and what happens to him if he accepts the wrong standard, by which the evil is the good. Shall I tell you why you're drawn to me, even though you think you ought to damn me? It's because I'm the first man who has given you what the whole world owes you and what you should have demanded of all men before you dealt with them: a moral sanction. . .
    "You're guilty of a great sin, Mr. Rearden, much guiltier than they tell you, but not in the way they preach. The worst guilt is to accept an undeserved guilt - and that is what you have been doing all your life. You have been paying blackmail, not for your vices, but for your virtues. You have been willing to carry the load of an unearned punishment - and to let it grow heavier the greater the virtues you practiced. But your virtues were those which keep men alive. Your own moral code - the one you lived by, but never stated, acknowledged or defended - was the code that preserves man's existence. If you were punished for it, what was the nature of those who punished you? Yours was the code of life. What, then, is theirs? What standard of values lies at its root? What is its ultimate purpose? Do you think that what you're facing is merely a conspiracy to seize your wealth? You, who know the source of wealth, should know it's much more and much worse than that.
    Did you ask me to name man's motive power? Man's motive power is his moral code. Ask yourself where their code is leading you and what it offers you as your final goal. A viler evil than to murder a man, is to sell him suicide as an act of virtue. A viler evil than to throw a man into a sacrificial furnace, is to demand that he leap in, of his own will, and that be build the furnace, besides. By their own statement, it is they who need you and have nothing to offer you in return. By their own statement, you must support them because they cannot survive without you. Consider the obscenity of offering their impotence and their need - their need of you - as a justification for your torture. Are you willing to accept it? Do you care to purchase - at the price of your great endurance, at the price of your agony - the satisfaction of the needs of your own destroyers? . . .
    "If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders - what would you tell him to do?"
    "I... don't know. What... could he do? What would you tell him?"
    "To shrug."

That’s precisely what so many producers are doing now as they slowly wake up to the nature of their enemy, and it’s glorious to watch.


  1. The JGALT number plate is still available!

  2. I recommend "Does Atlas Shrug?" by Joel Slemrod, et al. It's a compendium of professional essays on how taxes affect upper-income taxpayer behavior.

    Thick reading, but solid data.

  3. Your idea that the people who make the highest incomes produce anything usable is a lie.

    You seem to think that all the people who run say Fortune 500 coys invented things, innovated, produced usable or at least saleable products.

    This is a quaint,19th century view of how big business is run today.

    Today the highest paid people don't have any relationship whatsoever to what the company does.

    Anyone who wants to "go Galt" is by all means welcome to. The people who think they are indispensible to society are in no way so, and I encourage them to all drop out en masse.

    Be sure to send a postcard from whichever country you find that treats you more fairly than the USA and NZ Peter.

  4. Ruth

    What do you produce?


  5. Ruth is a housewife. Her husband is a top executive for the local Citigroup, which is to be Nationalized by the US, for reasons of poor managements by its executives.

  6. Hal

    This isn't the first time that Citigroup has been bailed out. It's been bailed out by the US government previously. It seems those guys are unable to survive in business without requiring massive welfare handouts and even bigger bailout to save them from the results of their own piss poor decisions. Looks like their "executives" are not really competant. They sure don't produce anything worthwhile for anyone else. Oh well. This time they might end up being identified as what they actually are, time serving bureaucrats.

    Anyway, thanks for the update. I didn't think Ruth actually understood what PC was getting at. Now I know she doesn't.


  7. Ruth

    Read PC's post very carefully and then answer the following questions as honestly as you are able:

    1/. Did PC promote the idea that people on the highest incomes are necessarily the greatest producers?

    2/. Did he posit the notion that the measure of a person's productivity of useful goods and/or services is their income?

    3/. Are you not making the error of substituing your own ideas for those which PC has presented?


  8. Ruth is a parasite. Pure and simple.

    She - and especially her children - deserve to starve.

    Anyone who pays any taxes for welfare, or offers her or her kids any charity, or bails our her company is as guilty as Rearden.

    Of course income is not a measure of worth.

    Wealth is the measure of worth!


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