Going Galt

The right hand side of the interwebs is ablaze with threats to Go Galt – a reference to the theme of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in which all the professionals and entrepreneurs in America downed tools in protest at punitive government tax policies and increasing government control of industry.

Will Wilkinson on the phenomenon,

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.

Will’s commenters are divided on the issue:

Why work more? They can live on what they make. They will just end up with more leisure time. Why work 60 hours a week on your small business when you can work 30 hours and still do ok? Instead of driving that business and employing 50 people, they will be happy will slower growth and 20 employees. 30 jobs go bye-bye. – uknowbetter

People acting as if a couple points of marginal rate are the difference between Heaven and Hell.

I don’t think the answer is to move the top marginal rate a point or two in an attempt to ally people’s fears. I think the answer is for entrepreneurs to be fearless. Make your money, and pay your tax.- odograph

Lisa Schiffren is on the side of the Galtians:

The doctors, lawyers, engineers, executives, serious small-business owners, top salespeople, and other professionals and entrepreneurs who make this country run work considerably harder than pretty much anyone else…[snip]…And now the president, who followed a path sort of like that, and who claims that his wife’s former six-figure income was a result of precisely such qualifications and efforts, is demonizing them. More problematically, he is penalizing their success and giving them very clear incentives to ratchet back on productivity.

Conor Friedersdorf responds,

But do you know why we are in a position where this sort of massive expansion of government is possible? It is partly because America’s professional class — its lawyers, engineers, and doctors, those meritocrats who “got into the better colleges and grad schools” — voted in large numbers for the Democratic candidate. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that affluent professional meritocrats, who often live in urban centers and prize competence, spent the 2008 campaign being told by the GOP ticket that big city professionals live in fake America, that a diploma from an elite college is reason for suspicion, that the wine these folks drink marks them as less authentic than the beer of their compatriots, etc.

The GOP cannot wage a culture war against elites when it is convenient to rally the base, and later make a credible claim to be the champion of those same elites when it comes time to talk about marginal tax rates. What does the average, apolitical law firm partner or neurosurgeon or mechanical engineer think when he flips on the television and sees Joe the Plumber being held up as the face of the Republican Party? Do they think, “This is a party that is going to reward meritocrats like me,” or do they think, “I’ve got a choice between a party that’s going to insult my intelligence, and another that’s going to take a slightly higher percentage of my annual earnings.”

I don’t mind either. But it is very weird to watch the whole right blogosphere go gaga for Ayn Rand, a Christian hating, sexually libertine, elitist extremist, so soon after holding up as its champions a symbolic everyman like Joe the Plumber, and an evangelical VP candidate. Speaking of Sarah Palin, I wonder what Ayn Rand would’ve though of the windfall profits tax she imposed on Alaska oil companies? My bet is that Ellis Wyatt would’ve strangled her rather than let her into Galt’s Gulch.

I’ll let Will have the final word.

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.

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

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