Will Atlas Shrug? A Compilation of Blogosphere Commentary about “Going Galt”

dcprotestThere’s a new craze hitting the conservative tubes on the Internets these days: “Going Galt!” While it’s difficult to identify an exact date of reference or to provide any unique person with credit for the general meme, Michelle Malkin and Helen Smith certainly deserve honorable mention for recently popularizing the phrase.

This movement seems to have manifested itself in two distinct, but related, forms: those who say, more-or-less, that “I ain’t gonna produce more that 249,999 dollars and 99 cents of taxable income” as well as those more accustomed to singing “Amazing Grace”  than Twisted Sister taking to the streets across America chanting “we’re not gonna take it anymore.”

Here are some relevant (and hopefully balanced) quotes I’ve found on all sides of the aisle regarding this recent phenomenon.  Enjoy!

The Setting:

Stephen Moore laid it out fairly well at the Wall Street Journal: “The current economic strategy is right out of ‘Atlas Shrugged’: The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That’s the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies — while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to “calm the markets,” another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as ‘Atlas’ grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate ‘windfalls.’

Every Knee Shall Bow provides a reasonable explanation of the phenomenon: “I’ve mentioned more than once that Atlas is shrugging. What this essentially means is that the producers in society are scaling back on their production purposely. People are scaling back their income in order to avoid paying higher taxes. They are at the same time avoiding spending to offset the difference. This is how producers nearly always respond to looters that come in and make productivity less worthwhile, either due to increased regulation or lower economic incentive. It’s a very predictable phenomena. Usually it’s not an organized response, just a natural response to circumstances.”

Who Is John Galt answers his own question: “Like many of Ayn Rand’s heroes, John Galt is a creative genius.  He is a man of uncommon reason, but he is also completely free of guilt.  John Galt is a free man who serves others only as it suits his own needs — he holds no misgivings about his ‘debt to society.’  Brilliant and uncompromising, he knows that it is society which in fact depends on him, and he proves it by stopping the creative flow that powers man’s very world.”

Jason Pye: “Atlas Shrugged is prophecy, no doubt about it. With the rise of economic populism and collectivism, the Individual will be castigated and harassed. As our incoming president tells us, ‘Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy.’ Private investment and pro-growth policies will be discouraged and any who who promotes capitalism will be demonized.”

Reason: “Forget a run on the banks, we might in danger of a run on Rand.”

Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights: “Sales of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ have almost tripled over the first seven weeks of this year compared with sales for the same period in 2008. This continues a strong trend after bookstore sales reached an all-time annual high in 2008 of about 200,000 copies sold.”

The Players:

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.): “People are starting to feel like we’re living through the scenario that happened in ‘Atlas Shrugged,’” said Campbell. “The achievers, the people who create all the things that benefit the rest of us, are going on strike. I’m seeing, at a small level, a kind of protest from the people who create jobs, the people who create wealth, who are pulling back from their ambitions because they see how they’ll be punished for them.”

Michelle Malkin at Real Clear Politics: “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.”

Malkin on her own turf: “Tax hikes have consequences. Incentives matter. Only self-deluded wealth redistributors living in la-la-land believe otherwise.”

Reverse Vampyr: “I’ve never been one for protests. But I can’t just stand by and allow my country to be ‘rebuilt’ into a replica of Cuba or the Soviet Union.”

One half of Robert Stacy McCain’s brain: “Wolverines!”

Additional McCain on “Wolverines!”: “Friends don’t let friends peddle defeatist bullshit. You cannot organize opposition unless you first believe that opposition can be effective and meaningful. Telling conservatives that there is no point deploying an ambush on the road to serfdom? That’s defeatist bullshit. If Ho Chi Minh had thought that way, the French would still rule Indochina. Conservatives are now a guerrilla resistance. Harassing the enemy — staging raids and ambushes that prevent him from enjoying his conquest at leisure — is basic to guerrilla resistance. If we are doomed to destruction, as least let it be said that we died fighting. But those who never fight, never win.”

Cassy@Wizbang: “Last week, thousands of first-time protestors gathered in a grassroots effort to make a statement. And it’s time to go Galt. Are we working to make money for ourselves and our families, or are we working to fund the socialist dreams of an out-of-control, radical government?”

Some Have Hats: “But it’s making me nuts to watch the demonization of the people who have spent their lives working hard and following the rules, and since I only have first-hand knowledge of my own life, I am forced to use my own examples if I want to talk about it. But I can tell you that from what I know of the stories of other people in my former tax bracket, I am not different or special. Charities have existed since the country became a country, and they have always been funded by (apparently this needs to be said loudly) THE EVIL RICH PEOPLE.”

Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds: “Can you say ‘going John Galt?’ Upper-Income Taxpayers Look for Ways to Sidestep Obama Tax-Hike Plan. ‘A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told ABCNews.com 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. So far, Obama’s tax plan is being looked at skeptically by both Democrats and Republicans and therefore may not pass at all.'”

Reboot Congress: “…my theological reasons for going John Galt are a little different. First, I feel that socialism violates the ten commandments. And, second, I believe socialism damages charity.”

Helen AKA “Dr. Helen” Smith: “Are you ‘going John Galt’ and reducing your productivity by choice, or removing yourself from the economy all together, because of the Obama Administration’s economic and tax plans? If so, PJTV may want to interview you. Watch this video for details. If you are interested in being interviewed, send an Email to [email protected].”

Donald Luskin via Dave Weigel:  “Luskin, who named his daughter Roark after the hero of Rand’s novel ‘The Fountainhead,’ sees basic economic concepts explained through the novelist’s work. ‘One of the reasons that the Laffer Curve works is because of the John Galt effect of creative people finding ways to cut back on their output if they know they’re going to be taxed, and demonized, for their success,’ he said. ‘We have these sort of villains, like John Thain at Merrill Lynch, who tried to pay himself a large bonus. But then in response to that we have [Sen.] Chris Dodd slipping into the stimulus a new rule that in punishing Thain punishes everybody, even the good guys.'”

Pursuing Holiness via Glenn Reynolds: “By going John Galt – reducing my income to the point that I no longer subsidize anyone else via government imposed wealth transfers – I hope to hasten the inevitable collapse.”

From ABC News: “A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told ABCNews.com 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 are going to try to figure out how to make our income $249,999.00,’ she said.”

The Skeptics:

Will Wilkinson may be too selfish to be selfish: “I can’t help but feel that threatening to withdraw from economic production, ala Atlas Shrugged’s John Galt, is a certain kind of libertarian-conservative’s version of progressives threatening to move to Canada. For my part, I can’t imagine what would make me want to stop working, and each new president makes me want to move to Canada.”

Doug Mataconis provides some healthy libertarian cynicism: “By the way, Atlas buffs, the point of Atlas Shrugged is not that you are John Galt. The point is that you are not John Galt. The point is that you are, at your best, Eddie Willers. You’re smart, hardworking, productive, and true. But you’re no creative genius and you take innovation — John Galt — for granted. You don’t even know who he is! And this eventually leaves you weeping on abandoned train tracks.”

The other half of Robert Stacy McCain’s brain: “Rand’s philosophical radicalism ultimately goes beyond a point I am willing to follow, but in her basic idea — the irreplaceable creative value of the entrepreneur, and the unworthiness of capitalism’s enemies — she hammers it home.”

My personal libertarian cynicism: “I fear that if the Republicans were to suddenly regain political power, all of the cries of ‘socialism’ would be buried under the rug as Republican defenders of big government race to outdo the Democrats with additional deficit spending.”

Megan AKA “Jane Galt” McArdle scribes: “I don’t think that we will see a mass exodus of productive people to secret hideouts.  I look to Atlas Shrugged more for conveniently totable beach reading than an economic blueprint.  What’s interesting to me, though, is how many details Rand did get right–like the markets in ‘unfreezing’ Ukrainian bank deposits, so similar to the frozen railroad bonds of Atlas Shrugged.  Or the cascading and unanticipated failures, with government officials racing to slap another fix on to fix the last failing solution.  If only the people in her novels had acted remotely like actual people, rather than comic book characters, I, too, would be rereading the thing now.”

Not PC: “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.”

Additional personal skepticism: “Why should voters believe Republicans are currently standing up for fiscal principles after taking an eight year vacation from them?”

QAndO: “I’d be more impressed if they fired a shot across the bow and coordinated a national day for cranking up their withholding allowances, just as high as they can.  They’re planning their next party on Tax Day, right?  One might think they’d be interested in ceasing to lend their earnings interest-free to the government.  They might take some satisfaction in doing something that actually shows up on the government’s ledger. I’d be convinced of their sincerity if they subsequently considered actually not paying their taxes next year if the government didn’t change its policies.  That would be civil disobedience, as opposed to loud-but-obedient.  But still, hold the tea. The ‘going Galt’ thing has been a bit better — at least it involves refusing to produce — but ‘John Galt’ is a rather radical standard, ladies and gentlemen.  Reducing your income so that you don’t pay the higher marginal taxes in the next bracket; partially shutting down businesses and taking more leisure time; retiring early.  These are nice, but it’s like ‘going Martin Luther King, Jr.’ without risking jail or invoking the Alamo without risking death.”

Michael Powell@UnitedLiberty: “There are far better advocates in literary history for government transparency and efficiency, sound money and freedom than Ayn Rand. Like other absolutist ideologies, Rand’s Objectivism preaches contempt for non-believers and an arrogance that comes with a lack of humility and a surplus of righteousness.”

Jerome Tucille via Dave Weigel: “This view of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ has its detractors. ‘Ayn Rand romanticized capitalists,’ said Jerome Tuccille, author of the libertarian history ‘It Usually Starts With Ayn Rand,’ in a Thursday interview. ‘She saw them as great heroes. She doesn’t deal with these corporatists like Thain who were pushing paper around and using regulations to feather their nests. Some of these bastards like Thain should be in jail. I mean, I want them carted out of their houses, doing the perp walk at 3 a.m.'”

The Observers:

Keith Burgess-Jackson: “Who knew that Ayn Rand was a revolutionary? But seriously, one great thing about being a college professor is that I am paid (largely) in leisure rather than money, and leisure isn’t taxed. I can’t imagine working hard to build a business, only to have a huge chunk of my earnings taken from me by the government and given to the lazy, the stupid, the improvident, and the irresponsible.”

Joseph Lawler at The American Spectator: “Then again, it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that eventually government will go awry. In fact the ultimate riff on government came out roughly 1,957 years (give or take about 33 years) before Atlas Shrugged, when someone, probably a clever proto-Objectivist, quipped, ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,’ as if to warn us that eventually the government is going to do what it wants to do, and the rest of us are better off worrying about more important things. No, if you are looking for the most complete forecast of today’s economic and political turmoil in 20th century literature you will have to look beyond Rand’s one-dimensional economic vignettes to a work of scope and sophistication: Douglas Adams’s all-encompassing masterpiece, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Doug Bandow@Cato@Liberty: “The president wants to increase taxes only on those earning above $250,000. Since most of us aren’t there — I keep waiting, but for some reason no one yet has offered me what I think I’m worth to express my opinions on current policy and events — who cares, right?”

TheRightRant: “How bad does it have to get before we throw up our hands and say, enough? We’ll see in 2010 if enough is enough. Oh, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read Atlas Shrugged. Or you can just look around, because you’re living it.”

Jeffrey Lord at The American Spectator: “The recent spontaneous eruption of impromptu ‘tea parties’ — demonstrations modeled after the Boston Tea Party of 1773 to protest against the Obama plan to socialize America — is the first sign that Gandhi-style rebellion against the government is in the American air.”

The Humorous:

Whiskey Fire: “The nationalization of Atlas Shrugged may strike Americans as foreign, even Swedish or something. However, the nation is already subsidizing the book’s dissemination. A banking company, BB&T Corp. of North Carolina, has given $30 million in grants in the last decade for various universities to teach the book. Most recently, in March, 2008, BB&T gave UT-Austin $2 million for a Chair in the Study of Objectivism. Then in October, BB&T took (wait for it) $3.1 billion in bailout money. It only seems fair for the nation to recoup some of its investment in future generations’ Rand-inspired economic havoc by nationalizing Atlas Shrugged now.”

Michelle Malkin: “Some tinfoil-hatted kooks are still pimping their conspiracy theories about the movement. The latest: Aha! Malkin once gave a speech to Americans for Prosperity and AFP organized the Denver anti-pork protest two weeks ago before Santelli went on his Tea Party rant last week, ergo it’s all a vast plot!!!!!!”

Wonkette: “Today at High Noon, the disciples of CNBC teevee ranter Rick Santelli held teabagging parties around the country. Apparently they did not pick up on the nonchalance in Santelli’s voice when he said, ‘we’re going to hold a… like a tea party or something because of this Obama, ha ha, weird.’ Well, the biggest of these parties was in Washington, by the White House, and like 20 people took cabs from CPAC to stand around in poop hats and complain about fiat currency for a few minutes while Michelle Malkin filmed them in various pornographic poses. Major thank yous to poop operatives ‘Jamie’ and ‘Ethan’ for sending most of the photos below, as well as to intrepid D.C. blog reporter Dave Weigel, some of whose photos we have stolen.”

The Opposition:

Steve Benen plays the race card: “Right, the character John Galt, the hero of the novel, is the wealthy, white, blond-haired guy who convinces corporate leaders to give up their jobs in order to spite society. As the story goes, these captains of industry were repressed by heavy-handed government, so they walked away and, when society crumbled, taught everyone a valuable lesson about making sure wealthy, white, blond-haired guys don’t feel unduly put upon.”

Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money : “I’m sort of tempted to ask Professor Reynolds if this seems plausible to him. Does it seem plausible to him — a law professor who is probably paid around 200K a year by the great state of Tennessee to do whatever it is he does while performing what is technically his actual job — that he is ‘working’ five times “harder” (using Wingnuttia’s definition of ‘hard work’) than a guy roofing houses in San Antonio in July who makes 40K a year?  If you think about it for five seconds it’s actually totally implausible that the correlation between ‘hard work’ in this sense and increasing income is even mildly positive. To believe it is, you have to believe that highly paid high status professionals hate their work far more than working class people who are doing dangerous, physically taxing, and/or extremely boring work for low pay.”

Nancy Nall: This is why I chuckle at the current craze among our friends on the right, which they call ‘going John Galt,’ a shout-out to one of the worst-written novels in the English language. The idea is to protest the current legislative proposals by voluntarily reducing their work output. Withdrawing from the workforce. Some call it ‘depriving the world of my talents,’ which is particularly amusing, as it’s usually the most untalented who are calling it that. I encourage them to do so, even in this dicey labor market, nay, especially in this dicey labor market. A lot of talented people are on the park bench, and would be happy to take your place. Your bluff is called. Go John Galt.”

The title is the story in this Brad Delong posting: “Memo to Conservative Wingnuts: John Galt Is Not a Christian”

Eschaton: “Righteous Bubba informs us that there are ‘SEVENTEEN videos dramatizing the Galt speech’ from Atlas Shrugs on You Tube. ‘It’s a long speech, so who the fuck knows how many videos are yet to be realized.’ Indeed.  The punchline: ‘Views for part one? 72140 as of this writing. 361 for part 17.’ Perhaps there is a lesson here.”

TBogg: “Approximately 2% of the American households make more than $250,000 a year and (you may find this hard to believe) a very high percentage of these high-earning go-getting producers spend their days commenting over at Michelle Malkin’s place… when they’re not busy flying their Lear jets up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.”

Additional TBogg: “Atlas will be dragging ass…”

James Pearce: “Why work for the government? Because they’re hiring…”

Photo credit: Dave Weigel

UPDATE: Via memorandum.com, here are some new lefty quotes:

Hunter@DailyKos: “Go live your Randian fantasies, go create that wonderful utopia in which only the most wealthy are permitted entry, and you are not burdened with the outrageous insult of having to contribute back a proportionate share of your income in order to help maintain the very fabric of the nation around you. I can see now that the thought that you might have to pay the same share of your income in taxes that your housekeeper does has drained your already blanched faces, and the thought of having to pay as much in taxes as your wretched mothers and fathers did, a few decades before you, is nothing less than an armed assault on your beachheads.”

Matthew Yglesias
(who is cool to drink with and has an open mind): “Just think what kind of nightmare scenario we might be inflicted with if the titans of finance who’ve made up such a large proportion of high earners in recent years were to pull back on their efforts! I shudder. Meanwhile, I haven’t actually read the book but my understanding is that in Atlas Shrugged they’re actually building a high-speed rail link from Las Vegas to Disneyland.”

UPDATE II: For those of you coming in from the right, I’ve got five very earnest questions for you. Also, you might wish to check out the Instacomment from Instapundit.

UPDATE III (by Brad Warbiany): This post suggests quite a bit about what we all think of “Going Galt”. But I’ve got a potential solution. Taking the suggestion from Bryan @ QandO, I say it’s time to cut your withholding as much as you can. Do it by April 15th. Show the bastards that you’re not going to let them have that money until the last possible moment.