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Thoughts About The Whole “Going Galt” Meme

by @ 9:40 am on March 6, 2009. Filed under Ayn Rand, Politics

As Stephen Gordon notes, a meme has arisen among some righty bloggers that purports to echo the spirit of Ayn Rand’s iconic hero:

Michelle Malkin has begun hammering the “Going Galt” theme, and it’s the subject of a long post by Melissa Clouthier today, and Donald Douglas also weighs in. I believe Dr. Helen may have been the first to raise the issue, so I’ll link her to be on the safe side.

One blogger described “Going Galt” thusly:

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. The H.E.N.R.Y.s feel the same way; people who are in the dreaded eeevil, mean capitalist pig $250,000 bracket are cutting back on their productivity. As they should – where does society get the right to enslave these people? The faster the 40% opts out, the sooner the collapse, and the sooner we can correct the situation.

Think of it as praying the alcoholic in your family will hit rock bottom sooner, rather than later. It’s time to stop enabling the entitlement mentality. It’s time to let go of our co-dependency and desire to be liked. It’s time for an intervention. It’s time to go John Galt.

However, as Bryan Pick points out, John Galt was about more than just tea parties, tax protests, and reducing your income so you don’t pay “rich people” taxes:

rockefeller2The “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.

Galt refused to let the public seize his creations for their (immense) benefit. He led an illegal strike. He accepted nothing more than a night watchman state. He openly scorned all religion and mysticism. His opposition to government was not of the “vote the bums out 20 months from now” variety, or merely underperforming–although he did discuss underperformers in his marathon speech, much of which is dramatized here (note: videos spoil much of the book – the part about underperformers is at 7:20 or so in Part 14).

Not that radical? Not willing to take that kind of risk? Then don’t play dress-up.

Content yourself to call your actions by their proper names. If you know what the fictional character symbolizes, and that’s not a standard by which you judge yourself, it’s better that you don’t compare your actions to his.

I’m guessing that really “Going Galt” is not something that most people have the stomach for.

Update: Will Wilkinson is even less impressed with the would-be strikers than Bryan:

[I]nsofar as this is all about taxes on the wealthy (as the link to Malkin suggests) it’s a bit hard to see tax rates somewhat exceeding the Clinton era’s as a move over some inflection point from the tolerable to the completely outrageous. And of course none of these folks designed an engine that would have created basically free energy (and made global warming a non-issue). In the individual case, “going Galt” smacks of a kind self-aggrandizement in the same way that climate smuggery does. Because, really, your marginal contribution doesn’t matter that much.

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.

Ouch.

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6 Responses to “Thoughts About The Whole “Going Galt” Meme”

  1. tfr says:

    Sounds like these people haven’t read the damn book. I mean, I know it’s long, but pry yourselves off of “The Bachelor” or whatever for a couple of weeks.
    The Soviet Union lasted what, 70 years, with everyone just going along doing the minimum?

  2. MichaelW says:

    I’m guessing that really “Going Galt” is not something that most people have the stomach for.

    Well, not yet maybe. But if the burdens on the producers continue to mount, and are felt by people as much as I think they will, then “going Galt” will seem like the only reasonable plan of action.

    I’m with you and Bryan and Brad Warbiany that some of the louder elements in this nascent movement are overstating their efforts (and the effect), but the movement has to start somewhere. I think, in the end, it’s much more effective to have these relatively small and non-threatening types of protests to build a true grassroots movement, than to go the ANSWER, Not In My Name, route of astroturfing a loud and angry constituency, threatening radical action.

    JM2C.

  3. KipEsquire says:

    He also told Dagny that he would immeidately kill himself if the looters threatened her to get to him.

    Yeah, a real selfish cretin, that guy…

  4. [...] Doug Mataconis provides some health 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.” [...]

  5. [...] people and, as a result, get minimal coverage in the media. And I’ve already noted that I don’t think very much about this whole “Going Galt” meme, which strikes me as little more than a way for conservatives to appropriate a character from a book [...]

  6. JackDoitCrawford says:

    In her 1964 Playboy Interview, Ayn Rand said that dictatorship has four characteristics: One-party rule, executions without trials for political offenses, expropriation or nationalization of private property, and censorship. The last was the sign that we couldn’t continue to persuade and would have to withdraw from society. We are not there, yet but the Republicans have eliminated themselves from real contention in politics, we expropriate and nationalize property (Susette Kelo/AIG), and we control who can own broadcast licenses and what they can advertise (no cigarettes or hard liquor). Don’t forget McCain/Feingold which tells us who can speak their mind before elections. So I would say 2 ½ out of 4. I don’t have any facts on whether Clinton or Bush killed anybody for political reasons. So it isn’t time to withdraw permanently, but perhaps it’s time to think about it and have a dress rehearsal on Tax Day, April 15. A holiday for producers is a good idea to protest sacrifice.

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