“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater,
nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man
who assumes the responsibility of thinking.”
I grew up an avid reader. I don’t know if this was something that was always in me, or if it was a fire that was kindled by certain teachers who assigned certain books for their students to read. Nevertheless I can recall having to read Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, 1984, Brave New World, and Johnny Got His Gun before I ever entered high school.
Suspiciously absent though was Atlas Shrugged. Now this may be due to the fact that it is over 1,100 pages long, or it may be due to the fact that it has certain passages that deal with sexual relations between the primary characters that are not fit for young minds. Regardless it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I even learned of that books existence, and at the suggestion of a friend I went out and bought a copy and read it. Since then I’ve read and re-read it so many times the pages are starting to fall out of it.
Atlas Shrugged, for those of you who haven’t read it, deals with a dystopian America of an unspecified date in which there is much poverty and the blame is directed towards those who have achieved wealth and success due to their ability to think; to produce goods that society depends upon. Due to an ever increasing number of laws enacted by the government, these producers are made to bear the burden of supporting the entire country; hence the reference in the title to the Titan Atlas who was made to carry the world upon his shoulders.
Enter John Galt, a young man of incredible intelligence who once worked for the Twentieth Century Motor Company, but left when management fell into the hands of the heirs of the company; a trio of youngsters who sought to impose the collectivist ideology of “From each according to his ability to each according to their need.” This ideology espoused the belief that people should all work for the common good and that they should not be paid by the amount of work they performed, but according to how much they needed the money. Under this policy a lowly janitor with 10 children might receive 3 times the pay as an engineer who invents the very motors the company produced. Galt saw the evil in this philosophy and left, vowing to stop the motor of the world.
What Galt did was he came to those who had reached their breaking points, after being made to shoulder the burden of sacrificing their ideals and supporting others, and he offered them a better way of life if they would just leave the world to itself. As more and more producers left to follow John Galt, those who remained were left to shoulder even more of the burden of supporting the non-producers, or looters as Rand called them.
Dagny Taggart, Chief Operating Vice President of Taggart Transcontinental Railroad, fights this imaginary character John Galt tooth and nail, calling him the destroyer. Then as she is chasing Galt in an airplane after he captured a brilliant young mind she had employed to work for her, she crash lands in Galt’s hideaway and finds all those who he has convinced to leave the world behind for a better way of life. They offer her the opportunity to stay, but she vows to return to keep fighting the looters and so she is allowed to return as long as she promises to keep their location secret from the world.
Dagny returns only to find that things have gotten much worse; the government has enacted new, more burdensome laws, and she is asked to attend a public meeting which will be broadcast over the radio to the entire country; outlining their plan to make the country great again. (Now where have I heard something similar?) When the broadcast is about to begin it is interrupted by Galt, who then gives a lengthy speech to the people; telling them that he is the cause of their problems. He tells them that since they believed that the rich and producing members of society are to blame for all their problems, he has taken them from society. He tells them that it is not the producing part of society that is to blame, it is the belief that anyone should bear the responsibility for others.
After his speech, Dagny finds Galt in a hotel and, having been followed, Galt is taken into custody. He is offered a job to use his mind to fix the problems, and he tells those in power to stand back and leave the producers alone. When they say they can’t do that, he simply tells them to give him an order and he will follow it; but he will not use his own mind to solve the problems they created.
When they become frustrated with his refusal to help them he is taken away to be tortured for the answer; whereupon his friend rescue him and take him back to his hideaway. At the end of the book the lights finally go out on the world, and Galt tells Dagny that now is the time they can go back and rebuild the country upon its ruins.
Now that’s just a brief overview of Atlas Shrugged; it’s hard to condense an 1,100 page novel into 7 paragraphs, but that’s the gist of the story. Atlas Shrugged was Ayn Rand’s masterpiece, after having written other less known novels, such as Anthem and The Fountainhead; both of which I read after reading Atlas Shrugged.
Rand used Atlas Shrug to explain and justify her belief in Objectivism. Objectivism is the philosophy that man’s purpose in life is to achieve happiness through the use of their own faculties, and that no man ought to be responsible for providing for the happiness of others. Objectivism can be summed up in the motto John Galt took for his own life in Atlas Shrugged, “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 mine.”
Ayn Rand was born in the former Soviet Union at the beginning of the 20th Century. She lived during the period that saw Lenin come into power and witnessed firsthand her families assets being seized by the government; which may have played a large role in her forming her beliefs regarding Objectivism; having witnessed the evil of Socialism firsthand. Whether or not Rand wrote her novels as a warning about the evils of Socialism, or Collectivism as she called it in her novels, is something I won’t bother discussing. What is important is that much of what she wrote in Atlas Shrugged is mirrored in the things I see happening in America today.
Especially significant to me is the belief that people should not be forced to accept complete and total responsibility for themselves and the choices they make in life. People today are following a Collectivist mindset when they say that society owes the individual an existence; that it owes them things that they have not earned. I see the similarity in how people put all their hope and trust in government to enact laws to fix all our problems when an overabundance of regulatory laws and a restriction of individual liberty is the root cause of most of our problems.
I have been told that I am cold hearted and uncaring because I do not believe that my wages should be taxed and then given to those less fortunate, or those in need. Is it truly wrong to want to keep what you have earned by the sweat of your labors? If it is, then please kill me now, for I do not want to live in a world where I must work to support those who refuse to do so, or whose choices in life have made them impoverished.
Ten years before the Declaration of Independence was written Ben Franklin wrote an essay entitled On the Price of Corn and the Management of the Poor. Now this is rather lengthy, but I want you to read what Franklin said about how to deal with the poor, “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavours to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burthen? On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent. The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness. In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty.”
I imagine, if Franklin was alive today and wrote that he would be called cold and uncaring too. But if you truly think about it, any society that tells those who produce that they must subsidize the lives of those who don’t produce can only exist so long as there are more producers than there are those living off the wealth confiscated from them. Once you reach the tipping point where there are more parasites living off the wealth created by others, the whole system collapses, or people become total slaves to those collect and redistribute the wealth they produce; which in essence is pure communism. But pure communism cannot exist, there must always be a ruling class to manage the system; and they always live better lives than those who rely upon the system for their existence. Yet that is what I see coming to America with the increasing implementation of the ideologies of the far left, and with increasing frequency, some of the policies of the so-called conservatives.
We are told that our government was established to secure the blessing of Liberty to all the inhabitants of this country. Liberty means that you, and you alone, are responsible for your own existence; the choices you make in life, and for your own protection. Liberty is threatened, if not doomed, the moment you introduce the idea that others, be it society or government, is responsible for caring for the needs of those who have not achieved wealth or success on their own.
Now I’m not saying people should not be charitable, what I am saying is that charity should not be a function of their government. If they want to give of their earnings to organizations that provide for those in need, then let them do so of their own free will; but DO NOT tax them and give that money to others without their consent – that is theft, and our government was not created to play the role of an elected Robin Hood.
Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, a year before I was born. Yet much of the philosophy behind it could very well have come from Frederic Bastiat’s book The Law. Written in 1850 two years after the February Revolution which saw the creation of the French Second Republic, the Law is Bastiat’s best known work.
Instead of trying to paraphrase what Bastiat said, I’ll just let the man speak for himself by having you read the most pertinent passages from his masterpiece:
What is Law?
What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.
Each of us has a natural right—from God—to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?
If every person has the right to defend—even by force—his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right—its reason for existing, its lawfulness—is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force—for the same reason—cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.
Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?
If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.
A Just and Enduring Government
If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well as in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, nonoppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable— whatever its political form might be.
Under such an administration, everyone would understand that he possessed all the privileges as well as all the responsibilities of his existence. No one would have any argument with government, provided that his person was respected, his labor was free, and the fruits of his labor were protected against all unjust attack. When successful, we would not have to thank the state for our success. And, conversely, when unsuccessful, we would no more think of blaming the state for our misfortune than would the farmers blame the state because of hail or frost. The state would be felt only by the invaluable blessings of safety provided by this concept of government.
The Complete Perversion of the Law
But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.
Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and unfailing.
But there is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others. This is no rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: the incessant wars, mass migrations, religious persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies. This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of man—in that primitive, universal, and insuppressible instinct that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain.
Property and Plunder
Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.
But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.
Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain—and since labor is pain in itself—it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.
When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.
It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.
The government we live under today is an agent of plunder – regardless of which party is in control of it. It plunders us under burdensome taxes which are then spent upon things the government was not supposed to be doing; including subsidizing the poor and corporate interests. It plunders us of our liberty under the guise of taking care of us; keeping us safe. As C.S. Lewis stated, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”
It is under tyrannies such as that which the people feel a sense of safety and security, all while their freedom is slowly being taken from them. Permits to do this, fees to do that, licenses, restrictions upon certain activities all may give the illusion of freedom while providing them with comfort and security, but as Ben Franklin said, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both. If we restrict liberty to attain security we will lose them both. Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
The Patriots of 1776 fought a war to obtain that liberty, and they established a system of government that would have ensured its continued existence had it not been replaced with the one outlined in the Constitution. It would have been much harder for tyrants to gain control of a country had the government been kept local and decentralized within the 13 individual States. For them to achieve their goal they had to consolidate the States under a single system of government which was both supreme and limited the ability of the people to resist its edicts and punish it should it overstep its authority.
They got exactly what they wanted with the ratification of the Constitution and all we have been doing ever since is electing one tyrant after another into office; which each succeeding tyrant adding more links to the chains which bind us in servitude to it. Sure there have been times when we’ve elected those who have sought to slow the progress of tyranny, but it was inevitable that tyranny win, and we haven’t had a good president since the earliest days of my youth; and he was shot and killed in Dallas in 1963.
There is a solution, but it requires that each of us abandon our belief that the federal government is both caretaker and nanny and begin assuming responsibility for our own lives. We must focus our attention upon electing good virtuous men, men of integrity of character and principles to our State Legislatures; men who will resist any federal encroachment upon their sovereignty.
In the most recent remake of the film Robin Hood there is a line spoken by Little John, played by Jamie Foxx, where he says the following about the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, “One thing keeps him in power, the money.” The same goes for our government; if we could cut off its money supply it would wither and die. That is why we had the Civil War; Lincoln knew that if he allowed the South to secede the revenue flowing into the treasury would vanish overnight; bringing his government to a complete and utter standstill.
But to restore some semblance of balance, of some semblance of liberty, those within each State must be willing to resist, and violate laws they believe to be unconstitutional. Employers must be willing to refuse to withhold federal taxes from the pay of their employees. Restaurants and other businesses must refuse to comply with federal regulations. Gun stores must stop complying with federal law by submitting background checks on gun buyers to the government.
In short, we must resist the tyranny of the federal government as it if were King George and it was 1776 all over again. Only then can we begin to swing the pendulum back towards liberty.
But I just don’t see it happening on a large enough scale to make a difference. Too many people are apathetic; too many are ignorant as to the cause of the problem, and too many lack courage to stand up to those whose power and authority exists only because we consent to it.
What I’m saying is that each and every one reading this needs to say, “I am a free man, I require permission from no one to enjoy the God-given gift of liberty. My earnings are mine and mine alone; they are not to be taken from me and squandered upon things for which I do not consent. Therefore, since you, as my government, have failed to restrain yourself to the powers delegated to you by we the people I therefore revoke my consent to you and your authority over me, and I will resist you until my last dying breath.”
After all, that is basically what Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” If you want to see America become great again, then that is what it’s going to take. Anything less than that is doomed to fail. You see there is one thing the government won’t tell you; they need you more than you need them. For whom would they govern if they arrested or killed all of us? They need your consent and your taxes to survive; withdraw either and they lose their power over you; withdraw both and government will die.
Ponder that as I return you to your regularly scheduled programming…