09 January 2009

Great Literature

I love to read. One of the most influential books I've ever read is Atlas Shrugged. With very little idea of its intellectual and cultural significance I read it as a tenth grader, at the age of 15. It "made" me a capitalist. Subsequent rereading has entrenched in my mind the major messages of that long novel.

This mention of it from the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore explains how today's leaders would benefit from Rand's cautionary tale:

Ultimately, "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and the cultivator of wealth through human intellect. Critics dismissed the novel as simple-minded, and even some of Rand's political admirers complained that she lacked compassion. Yet one pertinent warning resounds throughout the book: When profits and wealth and creativity are denigrated in society, they start to disappear -- leaving everyone the poorer.
One memorable moment in "Atlas" occurs near the very end, when the economy has been rendered comatose by all the great economic minds in Washington. Finally, and out of desperation, the politicians come to the heroic businessman John Galt (who has resisted their assault on capitalism) and beg him to help them get the economy back on track. The discussion sounds much like what would happen today:

Galt: "You want me to be Economic Dictator?"

Mr. Thompson: "Yes!"

"And you'll obey any order I give?"


"Then start by abolishing all income taxes."

"Oh no!" screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet. "We couldn't do that . . . How would we pay government employees?"

"Fire your government employees."

"Oh, no!"
Oh, yes.

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